It has been suggested by some that Syed Qutb was an Ash’ari. The response is two-fold. Number one, does being an Ash’ari mean that one cannot be a hero of Islam? Salah al-Din al-Ayyubi, the liberator of al-Quds, has proved that is not the case. Secondly, the claim is simply not true.
Syed Qutb certainly did not advocate Ash’arism! The Ash’ari scholars have a hard enough time understanding Ash’arism, someone untrained like Syed Qutb certainly could not. The fact that he may have used some expressions that contradict the Adiqa of the Salaf concerning the Sifat was incidental and a result of the environment in which he was raised. Unlike Zamakhshari or al-Razi, for example, he is by no means attempting to lay the groundwork for Ilm al-Kalam based Aqidah. He is not presenting arguments or shubuhat.If one is going to warn against him for such mistakes, then al-Zamakhshari and al-Razi’s tafsirs are even more deserving of boycott, yet the scholars of Tafsir continue to refer to these two very seminal works in the field of Tafsir. In fact, most Tafsirs of the Qur’an after the early generations have been written by Mutakallimin. Such tafsirs should generally not be read by a student until he has a clear understanding of the Aqidah of Ahl al-Sunna, lest he be confused by their shubuhat. This is a far cry from Sayyid Qutb, who is presenting no arguments based in Ilm al-Kalam, nor is he actively trying to interpret the Sifat based on Ilm al-Kalam, he just makes incidental errors in passing, many times because such expressions were in common use.

Also, the main merit of the Tafsir of Zamakhshari is its emphasis on the Balagha of the Qur’an. Sayyid Qutb’s Tafsir is also an excellent exposition of literary aspects of the Qur’an, but from angles rarely touched upon by the traditional scholars of Balagha. Moreso, it is an excellent exposition of many of the practical lessons, the Iman lessons, that can be drawn from the verses.

This is why it is deserving of being read.

In any case, without a doubt, the most single defining trait of Ash’aris is their advocacy of ‘Ilm al-Kalam. So the question arises, does Syed advocate ‘Ilm al-Kalam as a basis for deriving Aqidah? The answer is a resounding no. Here are some quotes from Syed, rahimahullah, in his Tafsir disavowing ‘Ilm al-Kalam and its negative impact on Aqidah:

والبدء والإعادة حقيقة . والرزق من السماء والأرض حقيقة . ولكنهم يغفلون عن هذه الحقائق ، فيردهم القرآن إليها في تحد وإفحام :
{ أَإِله مع الله؟ } . . { قل : هاتوا برهانكم إن كنتم صادقين } . .
وإنهم ليعجزون عن البرهان ، كما يعجز عنه من يحاوله حتى الآن . وهذه طريقة القرآن في الجدل عن العقيدة . يستخدم مشاهد الكون وحقائق النفس؛ فيجعل الكون كله إطاراً للمنطق الذي يأخذ به القلوب؛ ويوقظ به الفطرة ويجلوها لتحكم منطقها الواضح الواصل البسيط؛ ويستجيش به المشاعر والوجدانات بما هو مركوز فيها من الحقائق التي تغشيها الغفلة والنسيان ، ويحجبها الجحود والكفران . . ويصل بهذا المنطق إلى تقرير الحقائق العميقة الثابتة في تصميم الكون وأغوار النفس؛ والتي لا تقبل المراء الذي يقود إليه المنطق الذهني البارد ، الذي انتقلت عدواه إلينا من المنطق الإغريقي ، وفشا فيما يسمى علم التوحيد ، أو علم الكلام!

The initial and repeated (creations) are both reality. Provision from the heaven and the earth is a reality. However, they are heedless of these realities. The Qur’an defiantly and forcefully rebuts them:

Is there any god alongside Allah?”

“Say: give your proof if you are truthful.”

They were unable to provide a proof, just as those who attempt to do so are unable until now. This is the way of the Qur’an in arguing on behalf of Aqidah. It uses the scenes witnessed in the universe and the realities of the self. It makes the whole of the universe a framework for the logic by which it grasps the hearts and awakens the fitrah and purifies it so that it may accept its clear, simple, direct logic. It stirs up the senses and feelings that are ingrained in it concerning these realities and which have been covered up by heedlessness and forgetfulness and veiled by rejection and disbelief. By this logic, it affirms these penetrating realities that are firmly established in the design of the universe and the depths of the soul. They are not subject to the dispute that results from the sort of cold, abstract logic which we have become infected by by way of Greek logic and which is widespread in what has come to be known as Ilm al-Tawhid or Ilm al-Kalam!

And also:

. . وما كان الجدل الكلامي الذي ثار بين علماء المسلمين حول هذه التعبيرات القرآنية ، إلا آفة من آفات الفلسفة الإغريقية والمباحث اللاهوتية عند اليهود والنصارى ، عند مخالطتها للعقلية العربية الصافية ، وللعقلية الإسلامية الناصعة . . وما كان لنا نحن اليوم أن نقع في هذه الآفة ، فنفسد جمال العقيدة وجمال القرآن بقضايا علم الكلام!!

The Kalami argumentation that has been stirred up amongst the scholars of the Muslim about these expressions of the Qur’an is one of the blights of Greek philosophy and the theology of the Jews and Christians. When they mixed with the pure Arabic reason and the clear Islamic logic. It is not appropriate that we should fall in this same error today, thus ruining the beauty of Aqida and the beauty of the Qur’an with the issues of ‘Ilm al-Kalam.

And also:

إن البحث التفصيلي في كيفيات هذه الأفعال كلها ليس من الجد الذي هو طابع هذه العقيدة . وطابع الحركة الواقعية بهذه العقيدة . . ولكن هذه المباحث صارت من مباحث الفرق الإسلامية ومباحث علم الكلام في العصور المتأخرة ، عندما فرغ الناس من الاهتمامات الإيجابية في هذا الدين ، وتسلط الترف العقلي على النفوس والعقول .

Investigating the details of all these actions has nothing to do with the seriousness that characterizes this Aqidah and the practical impact of this Aqidah. However these topics were adopted by the Islamic sects and ‘Ilm al-Kalam in later centuries, when people gave up the positive priorities of this religion, and a sort of intellectual extravagance gained sway over their souls and minds.    Send article as PDF