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ʿIlm al-Kalām (Arabic: علم الكلام, literally the study of "speech" or "words") is the Islamic philosophical discipline of seeking theological principles through dialectic. Kalām in Islamic practice relates to the discipline of seeking theological knowledge through debate and argument. A scholar of kalām is referred to as a mutakallim (plural mutakallimiin). There are many possible interpretations as to why this discipline was originally called "kalām"; one is that the widest controversy in this discipline has been about whether the Word of God, as revealed in the Qur'an, can be considered part of God's essence and therefore not created, or whether it was made into words in the normal sense of speech, and is therefore created.
Throughout history, the place of kalam in Islamic thought has been controversial. The vast majority of the early traditional Sunni Muslim scholars have either criticized or prohibited it. Abu Hanifa prohibited his students from engaging in kalam, stating that those who practice it are of the "retarded ones". Malik ibn Anas referred to kalam in the Islamic religion as being "detested", and that whoever "seeks the religion through kalam will deviate". In addition, Shafi'i said that no knowledge of Islam can be gained from books of kalam, as kalam "is not from knowledge" and that "It is better for a man to spend his whole life doing whatever Allah has prohibited - besides shirk with Allah—rather than spending his whole life involved in kalam". Ahmad ibn Hanbal also spoke strongly against kalam, stating his view that no one looks into kalam unless there is "corruption in his heart", and even went so far as to prohibit sitting with people practicing kalam even if they were defending the Sunnah, and instructing his students to warn against any person they saw practicing kalam. Today, criticism of kalam also comes from the Salafi movement which bases its argument on the views held by early Sunni Muslims.
Modern day proponents of kalam such as Nuh Ha Mim Keller, a Sheikh in the Shadili Sufi Order, hold that the criticism of kalam from early scholars was specific to the Mu'tazila, going on to claim that other historical Muslim scholars such as Al-Ghazali and An-Nawawi saw both good and bad in kalam and cautioned from the speculative excess of unorthodox groups such as the Mu'tazilah and Jahmites. As he states in his article "Kalam and Islam":
"What has been forgotten today however by critics who would use the words of earlier Imams to condemn all kalam, is that these criticisms were directed against its having become 'speculative theology' at the hands of latter-day authors. Whoever believes they were directed against the `aqida or "personal theology" of basic tenets of faith, or the 'discursive theology' of rational kalam arguments against heresy is someone who either does not understand the critics or else is quoting them disingenuously."
Major Kalam schools 
See also 
- Jahm bin Safwan
- Jewish Kalam
- Kalam cosmological argument
- Logic in Islamic philosophy
- Qadr (doctrine)
- Wolfson, Harry Austryn (1976). "The Philosophy of the Kalam". (via Google Books). Harvard University Press. p. 1. Retrieved May 01, 2011.
- al-Makkee, Manaaqib Abee Haneefah, pg. 183-184
- Dhammul-Kalaam (B/194)
- Dhammul-Kalaam (Q/173/A)
- Dhammul-Kalaam (Q/213)
- Dhahabi, as-Siyar (10/30)
- Ibn Abi Hatim, Manaaqibush-Shaafi'ee, pg. 182
- Jaami' Bayaanul-'Ilm wa Fadlihi (2/95)
- Manaaqibul-Imaam Ahmad, pg. 205
- Ibn Battah, al-Ibaanah (2/540)
- Wolfson, Harry Austryn, The Philosophy of the Kalam, Harvard University Press, 1976, 779 pages, ISBN 978-0-674-66580-4, Google Books, text at archive.org
- Living Islam
- The Kalam
- Kalam Cosmological Argument