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Kalām (Arab., kalima, ‘word, discourse’). The science (ʿilm) of theology in Islam, developed in parallel with ʿilm ul-fiqh (and was originally called al-fiqh al-akbar, the greater fiqh). Its roots lie in early attempts to deal with rational questions prompted (or provoked) by Qur-ʾān—e.g., how can the qadar (determining power) of Allāh be reconciled with the freedom and accountability of humans? The earliest group to bring reason to bear on such issues were the Muʿtazilites. But that inclination to give primacy to reason seemed to others to subordinate the Qurʿān. Kalām, therefore, for al-Ashʿarī and al-Māturīdī became the elucidation and application of the Qurʾān as the absolute (and uncreated) Word of God. The dangers of Kalām to the uninitiated were signalled by al-Ghaz(z)ālī, whose reconciliation of philosophy, theology, and simple faith in effect put an end to theological exploration. Those who study theology are known as mutakallimun.

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