The Meaning of Kalam: History, Sources, and Its Relationship with Some Islamic Sciences

Meaning of Kalam – Does Reader know that the existence of kalam is one of the sciences that must be learned by Muslims? Yes, the existence of the knowledge of kalam is also as important as the knowledge of monotheism and fiqh. Although it is admitted that many people do not understand the study of the science of this pen. In fact, the existence of pen knowledge has existed since the time of the Prophet SAW, but at that time it was not yet known by such a term.

Considering that all of us as Muslims are obliged to follow the truth of the Messengers of God, then that is why the knowledge of kalam exists. In fact, many scholars have also contributed to answering the existence of this knowledge. Then actually, what is the knowledge of the pen? What is the scope of pen knowledge? What is the history of the development of pen knowledge until now? Does the science of kalam have a relationship with other sciences, namely the science of philosophy and the science of Sufism? Well, for Reader to understand that, let’s read the following comments!

Definition of Kalam Science

If literally, the term “kalam” means ‘words’ or ‘conversation’. While in terms of terminology, the science of penmanship is the science that talks about the existence of Allah SWT, the attributes that must be in Him, the attributes that He does not have, the attributes that may be in Him, until the Messenger of God to determine the truth of his apostleship. If Reader each feels strange with the name of this science, it is only natural because people usually call this Science of Kalam as the Science of Monotheism.

Definition of Kalam Science According to Experts

Some scholars also put forward the definition of the Knowledge of Kalam, for example:

According to Al-‘iji, the Science of Kalam is a science that provides the ability to establish Islamic religious beliefs by presenting arguments in order to eliminate existing doubts.

According to Ibn Khaldun, Kalam is a science that contains rational arguments to defend the creed of faith and contains a rejection of the heretics (new actions without previous examples) that in the creed deviate from the wrong school of thought and ahlussunnah He also thinks that this knowledge will later contain reasons why we should defend the beliefs of the faith, of course by using the arguments of the mind and containing objections against those who deviate from the beliefs of the Salaf and AhlusSunnah.

According to Hasbi al-Shiddieqy, the existence of the Science of Kalam or the Science of Tawheed is a science that talks about the ways of establishing religious beliefs by using convincing arguments, both naqli, aqli, and wijdani arguments.

Well, from some experts’ opinions on what is the Knowledge of Kalam, it can be concluded that the Knowledge of Kalam or the Knowledge of Tawhid is a science that talks about how to establish the beliefs of the Islamic religion with valid evidence. These beliefs include Allah SWT (along with His attributes), messengers, revelations, the afterlife, faith, and others.

As for why this knowledge is called the Knowledge of Kalam, because:

  • The most important question to be discussed in the first century of the Hijri is ‘does the Word of God (Al-Quran) include Qadim or Hadith?’. Therefore, the whole of science uses the name and makes it one of the most important parts of its study.
  • The basis of the Science of Kalam is the propositions of thought and the influence of these propositions is evident especially in the talks of the Mutakallimin (Islamic theologians).


It should be understood once again that the object of study in the Science of Kalam is indeed a bit more complicated and is even able to provoke a long debate in Islamic theological trends. Briefly, the main issues discussed in the Science of Kalam lie in 3 issues of scope, namely:

  1. Qismul Ilahiyat , that is, the sense of God’s existence and His attributes. The matters discussed are about:
  • Attributes of God. Does God really exist or not? This problem is debated by the Mu’tazilah and Ash’ariyah schools.
  • Qudrat and Iradat god. The question is debated in the Qadariyah and Jabariyah schools.
  • The question of human free will. This problem is closely related to God’s Qudrat and Iradat.
  • The problem of the Quran. What is a creature or not, and what is the original or new Al-Quran.
  1. Qismul Nububiyah , that is the relationship that cares between God and His creatures. The matters discussed are about:
  • God’s messengers who have been appointed to do certain work, namely Angels.
  • The revelation that God delivered to His Messenger both directly and through Angels.
  • The Apostles themselves received orders from God to deliver teachings to mankind.
  1. Qismul Al-Sami’yat , which is a question related to life after death. The matters discussed are about:
  • The day of human resurrection returns in the afterlife.
  • Day of reckoning.
  • Shiratal Mustaqim (bridge).
  • The question related to the place of retribution, be it heaven or hell.
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Other Names in the Science of Kalam

The use of the term “kalam” in the Science of Kalam often makes the public feel alien to its existence. Therefore, there is another name for this Knowledge of Kalam, namely:

1. Knowledge of Tawheed

It is called the Science of Tawhid because it talks about the oneness of Allah SWT. According to the scholars of Ahl al-Sunnah, Tawheed is that Allah SWT is One and His essence, undivided, One in His attributes, which is eternal, unparalleled for Him, One in his actions- His, and He has no partner.

2. Knowledge of Ushuluddin

Named as Ilmu Ushuluddin because it discusses the principles of the Islamic religion. Not only the principles of religion, but also on the principles of religious belief with clear proofs (Al-Quran and Mutawatir hadith) as well as mental proofs.

3. Knowledge of Aqidah or Aqa’id

Named as Science of Aqidah or Aqa’id because it talks about Islamic beliefs. Sheikh Thahir al-Jazairi (1851-1919) also explained that the Islamic creed is the things that Muslims believe in, meaning they decide on the existing truth.

History of Kalam

Does Reader know that Kalam is included in the four scientific disciplines in the study of Islam? Yes, the other three are Jurisprudence, Sufism, and Philosophy. If in the Science of Fiqh it is more about the formal aspects of worship and Islamic law. Then in the Science of Sufism, we discuss more about aspects of appreciation and personal religious experience. While in Philosophy, it discusses more about things that are speculative reflections about this life.

The early history of the emergence of Kalam is from the death of the Prophet Muhammad SAW, at which time there was a question among Muslims about who would be the successor of the Prophet (Khalifatul Rasul). This was then overcome by appointing Abu Bakar As-Shiddiq as caliph. After his death, the caliphate was led by Umar bin Khattab who at that time the Muslims seemed determined to experience expansion such as the peninsula from Arabia, Palestine, Syria, some Persian territories, to the Romans and Egypt.

After the caliphate of Umar bin Khattab ended, Uthman bin Affan was appointed as the caliph to replace Umar. Uthman is still included in the wealthy Quraish group, his family also consists of Makkah Aristocrats who have trading experience and administrative knowledge. That knowledge was used in leading the administration in the regions outside the Arabian peninsula. But unfortunately, at that time nepotism tended to occur so that there was instability among Muslims. In fact, there were many opponents who did not agree with Uthman’s leadership, until finally he was killed by rebels from Kufa, Basrah, and Egypt.

After Uthman died, Ali Abi Talib was selected as the next caliph candidate. However, he immediately received a challenge from other leaders who also wanted to become caliph, let’s say there were Talhah, Zubair, and Aisyah. The event is known as the Jamal War. Then, there was also a challenge that came from Muawiyah bin Abi Sufyan who at that time wanted to become caliph and demanded Ali to punish the murderers of Uthman. Due to the existence of those events, Theology emerged regarding the historical origin of the existence of the Science of Kalam.

At the time of Prophet Muhammad SAW, the existence of the Knowledge of Kalam did exist but was not yet known by such a term. It was only known later, precisely after other Islamic sciences appeared one by one. Especially when people have talked a lot about belief in the supernatural (metaphysics). From the existence of political and historical events that happened in the past, grow the factors that caused the emergence of the Knowledge of Kalam, namely:

Internal factors

  1. The existence of the Al-Quran in addition to inviting His people to believe in prophethood and things related to it, also alludes to the existence of groups and religions that existed in the time of the Prophet Muhammad SAW. The Qur’an does not allow their belief and opposes it with the following reasons:
  • As a group that denies religion and the existence of God, and also says that they are the ones who cause destruction and damage, as mentioned in QS Al-Jatsiyah verse 24.
  • As groups of polytheists, as mentioned in QS Al-Maidah verse 116.
  • As groups of infidels, as mentioned in QS Al-Isra’ verse 94.
  • As hypocritical groups, as mentioned in QS Ali Imran verse 154.
  1. There are passages that seem to contradict each other, so people come who collect the verses and philosophize them.

External Factors

  1. Many of the followers of Islam, who used to be Jews, Christians, and others. After they “calmed down” from the pressure, they began to review their religious beliefs and expand them into Islam.
  2. The Muslim groups that existed in the past, especially the Mu’tazilah group, focused their attention on the broadcasting of Islam and refuted the reason that they were hostile to Islam, by knowing their beliefs as well as possible.
  3. The Mutakallimin want to balance their opponents using philosophy, so they study logic and philosophy.
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The science of Kalam is mentioned as a science that can stand on its own during the Dani Abbasid Empire, especially during the leadership of the caliph al-Makmun, which was pioneered by two Islamic figures namely Abu Hasan al-Ash’ari and al-Maturidi.

Sources of Kalam Knowledge

The existence of Kalam still makes the Al-Quran and Hadith as the main source of their study in an effort to explain the existence of Allah SWT, His attributes, and other issues of Islamic belief. Well, here are the sources of study from Ilm Kalam.

1. Al-Quran

In this holy book, there are many verses that talk about divine problems. For example in QS Al-Ikhlas verse 3-4 which means “(Allah) neither begets nor begets” “and there is nothing equal to Him” 

2. Hadith

In the hadiths of the Prophet Muhammad SAW, many talk about problems that are also discussed in the Science of Kalam. Among them is the Prophet’s hadith which explains the nature of faith and the division of groups, namely:

“This hadith was narrated from ‘Abdullah bin ‘Umar. He said that the Messenger of Allah once said ‘What happened to the children of Israel will happen to my people…. The children of Israel have split into 72 groups and my community will split into 73 groups. All will go to hell, except for one group,’ ‘Who are they, O Messenger of Allah’ asked the companions. The Prophet replied, ‘They are those who follow my footsteps and my companions. (HR At-Tirmidhi)

3. Human Thought

Namely in the form of thoughts that are issued by Muslims and non-Muslims. Considering that Islam has used rational thoughts to explain things related to the verses in the Quran, especially those whose meaning was not clear even before Greek philosophy entered.

The relationship between Kalam and other Islamic knowledge

The existence of the knowledge of Kalam certainly has a relationship with other Islamic knowledge, namely in the form of:

The relationship between Kalam and Islamic philosophy

Many experts are of the opinion that Kalam and Islamic philosophy have a relationship, because basically Kalam also discusses divine and religious knowledge. While in Islamic philosophy discusses the intellectual proof.

The relationship between Kalam and Sufism

In relation to the Knowledge of Kalam, the existence of the Knowledge of Sufism has the following functions:

  • As a provider of spiritual insight in the understanding of Kalam. A deep appreciation through the heart of the Knowledge of Kalam makes it more understandable and can be applied in behavior. Therefore, the existence of Sufism can be said to be the perfecter of Kalam.
  • Functioning as a provider of spiritual awareness in the debates that exist in the Science of Kalam.

The relationship between Kalam and Sharia

In the Islamic religion, the existence of the knowledge of the pen is based on it being built through the Shari’a. If it is likened to, then sharia without the knowledge of Kalam is like a building hanging in the sky without any support.

The relationship between Kalam and the Quran

As mentioned before, the existence of Al-Quran has an inseparable connection with the Science of Kalam, because it is used as its main source. Al-Quran has a discussion about God in the form of essence, nature, asthma, actions, and demands, while Kalam will discuss about the oneness of Allah SWT.

The relationship between the Knowledge of Kalam and the Knowledge of Ushuluddin

In fact, the knowledge of Kalam is the popular name of the Knowledge of Ushuluddin. In Ushuluddin Science, which is also known as Theological Science (Divinity), discusses the basic principles of religion in the form of belief, monotheism, and i’tikad (belief) about the 6th pillar of Faith.

The relationship between Kalam and Tawheed

The science of Kalam is a science that discusses about God and bases its arguments on logic or ratio as proof against the argument of naqli or text. While Tawheed is a form of belief in God Almighty by believing in God and having no partner for Him. Therefore, Kalam and Tawhid both discuss about God.

The relationship between Kalam and Ushul Fiqh

According to Abu Hanifah, the existence of Fiqh is divided into two things, namely Fiqh Al-akbar and Fiqh Al-Ashgar. In Fiqh al-Akbar discusses beliefs, religious principles, and monotheism. While in Fiqh Al-Asghar discusses how to worship. Well, so the relationship between Ilm Kalam and Ushul Fiqh is both discussing belief and monotheism, especially in Fiqh Al-Akbar. In addition, both of them also use the Al-Quran and Hadith as their main sources.

The relationship between the Knowledge of Kalam and the Knowledge of Aqidah

Aqidah knowledge is knowledge that talks about matters related to belief in Allah SWT and His attributes of perfection. Well, in Ilmu Kalam also discusses such things.

The relationship between Kalam and Sharia/Law

Sharia is the whole of Islamic teachings in the form of divine norms, both governing inner behavior and concrete behavior. Well, in Ilmu Kalam also discusses this Sharia.

Well, that’s the commentary on what Kalam is and its relationship with other Islamic sciences. Are Reader interested in learning this Science of Kalam?