|Ibn `Ulayh the elder was an eminent Traditionalist in Basra in the second half of the 2nd century AH who propagated a body of opinions and transmitted knowledge on theological issues which resembled a theological system. Though certain Traditionalist leaders attempted to prove that Ibn `Ulayh in fact did not believe in the created-ness of the Quran and explained it away as a misinterpretation, the weight of the evidence indicates otherwise. In fact, in addition to believing in the created-ness of the Quran, Ibn `Ulayh appears to have gravitated in issues relating to tawhid toward the position of theologians who held to the notion of tanzih (via remotionis, i.e. that God is above any attributes with material implications). Various sources contain hadiths reported by Ibn `Ulayh which deal with the subject of tawhid in an anti-anthropomorphic light. Among the later Traditionalist personalities of Baghdad mention may be made of the anti-ascetic `Ali b. Madyani (d. 234 AH) who adopted similar positions on the issue of the created-ness of the Quran as well as on qadar to those of the Mu`tazilites, and who was banished by the Traditionalists of his time. Ibn Madyani’s treatise containing his views about a number of Basran scholars who had been accused by Yahya b. Ma`in, the anti-Mu`tazilite Traditionalist, as fatalists, is a good source for an evaluation of his ideas.
The Traditionalists’ attraction to theological issues may have been less than a widespread trend during the course of the 2nd century AH, but it clearly assumed much larger dimensions in the next hundred years, a fact that resulted in the formation of several anti-Mu`tazilite and theologically oriented Traditionalist schools and which culminated in Ash`ari in the early 4th century AH. From a broad historical perspective, it may be concluded that the appearance of a number of personalities in the 3rd century AH facilitated the link between the anti-theological Traditionalists and the theologically oriented school of Ash`ari. These included Husayn Karabisi (d. 248 AH) and his companions who by basing themselves on a theological outlook, while considering the Quran as non-created, asserted the utterance of its reciter as being created. They, none the less, remained loyal to the mainstream Traditionalist beliefs such as that of determinism. It should be noted that the belief in the created-ness of Quranic utterances, which had found a considerable following among the so-called Lafziyyah among the Traditionalists of the 3rd century AH, was extended by the likes of the Syrian Traditionalist Hishan b. `Ammar to include the Quranic words uttered by Gabriel.
In the same period, a rather complex view was put forward by the eminent Basran Traditionalist Ibn Kalam who considered God’s speech as a pre-eternal reality one with Himself. According to Ibn Kalam the Quran is an Arabic rendition of the word of God and is a reality that transcends letters and sounds, and one that is uniform and indivisible. According to Ibn Kalam the sound of Quranic recitation is but a version of the divine word and not the divine word itself. Here, mention should also be made of the Basran ascetic Harith b. Asad Muhasibi (d. 243 AH) who, in spite of his Traditionalist training, harbored inclinations towards theological methods and thus became the target of criticisms leveled against him by Ahmad b. Hanbal.