al-Hafiz al-Bayhaqi says is al-Asma wa al-Sifat [selected excerpts translated by Sh. GF Haddad] in the section:
The meaning of the Prophet's saying: "It came out of Him" * is that it proceeds from Him (wujida minh) whereby He spoke it and revealed it upon his Prophet and He made it intelligible to His servants. This "coming out" is not like our speech, for Allah is everlasting and possesses no inside (la jawfa lah) - greatly exalted is He above any resemblance to creatures! However, Allah's speech is one of His attributes, pre-existent (azali), existing in His person (sifatun lahu azaliyya mawjudatun bi dhatihi), He always was, and continues to be, ever described by it.
The Recitation of the Qur'an
The Qur'an which we recite is Allah's speech literally recited with our tongues, written in our volumes, preserved in our chest, and heard with our hearing, without indwelling in any of the preceding. It is one of the attributes of Essence and is inseparable from Him. This is exactly the same as the Creator being known in our hearts, mentioned by our tongues, written in our Books, worshipped in our mosques, and heard with our hearing , without any indwelling in any of the above. As for our recitation, writing, and memorisation of the Qur'an, they are part of what we earn (min iktisabina) - and what we earn is without doubt created. (66)
Concerning the hadith of the Prophet : "If the Qur'an were inside an untanned hide the Fire would not touch it." (67) Ibrahim ibn Hani said: I heard Ahmad bin Hanbal say about Uqba ibn Amir's narration: "'Inside an untanned hide' means in a man's heart. It is hoped that those who have the Qur'an well-preserved in their heart will not be touched by the Fire." (68)
Ibn al-Mubarak said: "I do not say the Qur'an is the Creator nor that it is created. Rather, it is Allah's speech, inseparable from Him." This is the position of the Salaf and Khalaf among the major scholars of Hadith. Namely, that the Qur'an is Allah's speech and one of the attributes of His Entity, inseparable from Him.....
Two positions are retained from the Salaf concerning our recitation, writing, and memorisation of the Qur'an. Some have made a distinction between recitation (tilawa) and the thing recited (matluw), as we have; others have preferred not to speak about it, at the same time as they rejected the claim of those who said: "My pronunciation (lafzi) of the Qur'an is uncreated." (69)
Something Ibn Shaddad had written was handed to Abu Bakr al-Marwazi which contained the phrase: "My pronunciation of the Qur'an is uncreated" and the latter was asked to show it to Ahmad ibn Hanbal for corroboration. The latter crossed out the phrase and wrote instead: "The Qur'an, however used (haythu yusraf), is uncreated." (70)
In another sound narration, Abu Bakr al-Marwazi, Abu Muhammaed Fawran [or Fawzan], and Salih ibn Ahmad ibn Hanbal witnessed Ahmad rebuking one of his students named Abu Talib with the words: "Are you telling people that I said: 'My pronunciation of the Qur'an is uncreated'?" Abu Talib replied: "I only said this from my own." Ahmad said: "Do not say this - neither from me, nor from you! I never heard any person of knowledge say it. The Qur'an is Allah's speech uncreated, whichever way it is used." Salih said to Abu Talib: "If you told people what you said, now go and tell the people that Abu 'Abd Allah [Imam Ahmad] forbade to say it" (71)
(64) In the hadith: "In truth you do not return to Allah with anything better than what came out of Him, meaning the Qur'an". Narrated from Abu Dharr by al-Tirmidhi and al-Hakim but declared weak by al-Bukhari in Khalq Af'al al-'Ibad.[/
(66) AS (p.258-259); ASH (2:5)
(67) Narrated from 'Uqba ibn 'Amir by Ahmad with three chains in his Musnad, al-Darimi in his, al-Tahawi in Mushkil al-Athar (1:390), al-Tabarani in al-Kabir (308 #850) and Abu Ya'la in his Musnad (3:284). All of their chains are weak as they are narrated through 'Abd Allah ibn Lahi'a from Mishrah ibn 'Ahan Abu al-Mus'ab al-Ma'afiri. The over-lenient editor of the Musnad Hamza al-Zayn declares the hadith fair (13:353 #17298, 363 #17340, 367 #17351), but Imam Ahmad himself in al-'Ilal wa Ma'rifa al-Rijal (3:284 #1745) and al-Bayhaqi's al-Asma wa al-Sifat (ASH 2:14-15 #582), Asad and al-Hashidi, both declared its chains weak. The latter mentions that it is also narrated through a much weaker chain by al-Tabarani (6:172 #5901, 17:186 #498) and others, which does not strengthen the narration. Ibn Qutayba categorically declared the hadith false in Ta'wil Muktalaf al-Hadith (p.200) because, he says, "we can see volumes of the Qur'an burn and suffer with other accidents ('urud) and books suffer." However, al-Munawi in Fayd al-Qadir indicated that it is strengthened by other chains and mentioned that al-Baghawi cited it in Sharh al-Sunna, which shows that he considered the hadith valid.
(68) Narrated with a sound chain to Imam Ahmad.
(69) AS (p.264-265); ASH (2:14-17)
(70) AS (p. 265); ASG (2:18). Narrated with a sound chain by Bayhaqi. Al-Kawthari commented on this and the next narration as follows: "Due to such equivocal expressions, many of Ahmad's companions erroneously thought that anything remotely connected with the Qur'an is pre-eternal (qadim). Bukhari said in Khalq Af'al al-Ibad : ' As for what the two parties from the school of Ahmad have claimed as proof, each for his own position: Much of what they relate is not established as authentic. It is probably they did not comprehend the subteleness of his postion. What is known from Ahmad and the people of knowledge is that Allah's speech is uncreated and all else is created. But they hated to discuss and explore obscure matters, avoiding dialectic theologians and their queries and disputations, except in what was a matter of knowledge and which the Prophet clairfied.' "
(71) AS (p.265-266); ASH (2:18) This is a sound narration also found in Salih ibn Ahmad's book al-Mihna (p. 70-71), Ibn al-Jawzi's Manaqib al-Imam Ahmad (p.155), and Ibn Taymiya in Majmu' al-Fatawa (12:360, 12:425)
Ibn Kathir says in al-Bidaya wa al-Nihaya:
وكلامه في القرآن كلام الله غير مخلوق، وإنكاره على من يقول: إن لفظه بالقرآن مخلوق يريد به القرآن
قال: وفيها حكى أبو عمارة وأبو جعفر أخبرنا أحمد شيخنا السراج عن أحمد بن حنبل أنه قال: اللفظ محدث.
(ما يلفظ من قول إلا لديه رقيب عتيد) [ ق: 18 ] قال: فاللفظ كلام الآدميين.
وروى غيرهما عن أحمد أنه قال: القرآن كيف ما تصرف فيه غير مخلوق، وأما أفعالنا فهي مخلوقة.
قلت: وقد قرر البخاري في هذا المعنى في أفعال العباد وذكره أيضا في الصحيح، واستدل بقوله عليه السلام: " زينوا القرآن بأصواتكم).
ولهذا قال غير واحد من الائمة: الكلام كلام الباري، والصوت صوت القاري.
وقد قرر البيهقي ذلك أيضا.
وروى البيهقي من طريق إسماعيل بن محمد بن إسماعيل السلمي عن أحمد أنه قال: من قال: القرآن محدث فهو كافر.
ومن طريق أبي الحسن الميموني عن أحمد أنه أجاب الجهمية حين احتجوا عليه بقوله تعالى: (ما يأتيهم من ذكر من ربهم محدث إلا استمعوه وهم يلعبون) [ الانبياء: 2 ].
قال: يحتمل أن يكون تنزيله إلينا هو المحدث، لا الذكر نفسه هو المحدث.
وعن حنبل عن أحمد أنه قال: يحتمل أن يكون ذكر آخر غير القرآن، وهو ذكر رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم أو وعظه إياهم
[partial translation by a Tarimistudent]
What Imam Ahmad says about the Speech of God being uncreated, and his censure of whoever says, “his words with the Qur’an are created” and he means by it the Qur’an.
… [Imam] Ahmad said, “[An uttered] word is muhdath [originated].”
Imam Ahmad used these words of God as proof “He does not utter a single word except there is an ever-presence watcher [50:18].” Imam Ahmad said, “Hence what is uttered is the speech of humans.” It has also been related from him, “The Qur’an, whichever way it is used, is uncreated.”
I say [i.e. ibn Kathir] this is what Imam Bukhari affirms in his book The Creation of the Actions of Slaves. Imam Bukhari used as proof his words [the Prophet], peace be upon him “beautify the Qur’an with your voices.” For this reason, several Imams have said that Speech is the Speech of the Creator and the voice is the voice of the reciter. This is what Bayhaqi affirms also. Bayhaqi relates … [that] Imam Ahmed said, “ Whoever says the Qur’an is muhdath is a Kaffir.” … The Jahmiya responded by using the words of God “A reminder doesn’t come from their lord that is muhdath except that they listen to it playfully [21:2].” Imam Ahmad responded by saying “This may mean that the revelation to us is muhdath, not the Qur’an itself … This may [also] be some other reminder, which would be the reminder the Prophet, peace be upon him, gives [i.e. His, peace be upon him, religious exhortations, etc].”