Asħ-Sħaˆraaniyy (898-973 AH/ 1493-1565 AD), ˆAbdulWahhaab ibn ‘Aĥmad ibn ˆAliyy Al-Ĥanafiyy (as he is a descendant of Muĥammad ibn Al-Ĥanafiyyah) was a scholar among the Sufis. He was born in Qalqasħandah in Egypt, and died in Cairo. (Al-’Aˆlaam (2002), 4/180) Among his many books authored are Lawaaqiĥu-l-’Anwaari-l-Qudsiyyah Fii Bayaani-l-ˆUhuud Al-Muĥammadiyyah, hereby referred to as Al-ˆUhuud Al-Muĥammadiyyah.
Asħ-Sħaˆraaniyy’s considerable knowledge and piety made him many envious enemies, to the extent that his books were perverted in his own time. He had to defend himself by showing the original manuscripts of his books to show his innocence. In the introduction to his book quoted below, he speaks of such an incident and explains that he started mentioning ĥadiitħs as proofs for everything he said to make them more difficult to pervert. After all, he argued, if the claims stated blatantly contradict the ĥadiitħ mentioned it would be easier for the reader to discover that there is something fishy going on! (Al-ˆUhuud Al-Muĥammadiyyah, 6)
Asħ-Sħaˆraaniyy is among the scholars that defended Muĥyiddiin Ibn ˆArabiyy and explained some of his strange expressions in a manner that agrees with the sayings of Ahlu-s-Sunnah. Note, however, that some of the expressions found in the latter’s books are perversions. Asħ-Sħaˆraaniyy said:
Asħ-Sħaykħ Abuu Ţaahir Al-Muzaniyy Asħ-Sħaadħiliyy told me that all of what is in Asħ-Sħaykħ Muĥyiddiin’s books of things that contradicts blatant Islamic Law is forged, because he is a complete man by the consensus of authenticators." (Al-Yawaaqiitu wa-l-Jawaahir, 3)
In any case, this is all history, and what we are mainly concerned with here is belief in itself, not what particular non-prophets believe in particular. The following narration of Asħ-Sħaˆraaniyy, however, shows Asħ-Sħaykħ Muĥyiddiin’s strong knowledge of, and adherence to, Sunni kalaam. First, however, let us see briefly what Asħ-Sħaˆraaniyy’s attitude is, and where his loyalty lies.
Asħ-Sħaˆraaniyy is a mainstream Sunni i.e. an Asħˆariyy
He said with regard to his loyalty to Ahlu-s-Sunnah:
…. And know that what is meant by "Ahlu-s-Sunnah wa-l-Jamaaˆah" in the customary expressions of people today is Abu-l-Ĥasan Al-Asħˆariyy and whomsoever was prior to him, such as Al-Maaturiidiyy and others…. (because of Al-Asħˆariyy’s fame, however)…. people started saying "this man’s belief is correct and Asħˆariyy," but they do not mean that those who are not are necessarily wrong absolutely,… and there is no significant difference between Asħˆariyys and Maaturiidiyys in the sense that they accuse each other of bad innovation in the religion….
…. and know, dear brother, that whomsoever follows Ahlu-s-Sunnah wa-l-Jamaaˆah must have his heart full of content with following them, and against whomsoever disagrees with them. (Al-Yawaaqiitu wa-l-Jawaahir, 2)
With regard to ambiguous expressions found in books of sufis in general and Sħaykħ Muĥyiddiin, he said:
I advise all those who are not capable of reaching the understanding of what the people of illumination to stand firm by the apparent decrees of the scholars of kalaam, and not go beyond that….. (Al-Yawaaqiitu wa-l-Jawaahir, 2)
Asħ-Sħaykħ Muĥyiddiin on the pebbles thrown in Ĥajj pilgrimage
(إشارات الشيخ محيي الدين للتوحيد في رمي الحصى بالحج) قال الشعراني في لواقع الأنوار القدسية: ذكر الشيخ محيي الدين في باب الحج من “الفتوحات”ما نصه: إنما كان حصى الرمي سبعا لأن الشيطان يأتي الرامي هناك بسبع خواطر، لا بد من ذلك فيرمي كل خاطر بحصاة ومعنى التكبير عند رمي كل حصاة: الله أكبر من هذه النسبة التي أتانا بها الشيطان وأطال في ذلك ثم قال:
Asħ-Sħaˆaraaniyy said: “Asħ-Sħaykħ Muĥyiddiin mentioned in the chapter on Ĥajj in Al-Futuuĥaat the following: ‘The pebbles we are throwing are seven, because the Satan always comes to the thrower there with seven seeds-of-doubt (misgivings). So, the thrower throws a pebble at each of these satanic suggestions. And the meaning of saying, " Allaahu-Akbar," with every thrown pebble is that Aļļaah is greater than what the Satan brought.’ He (Asħ-Sħaykħ Muĥyiddiin) explained this at length, then he said:”
The first pebble
إذا أتاك بخاطر الشبهة من إنكار الذات، فارمه بحصاة الافتقار إلى المرجح وهو أنه واجب الوجود لنفسه.
"If he comes to you with the satanic suggestion that Allah Himself does not exist, then throw at him the pebble that represents the absolute need of anything intrinsically possible-in-existence to have its possibility of non-existence outweighed by the One that makes it so (otherwise it would be non-existent); which means that He (Aļļaah) is intrinsically necessary in existence (so He does not need a creator as His existence is a must, and not a possibility).”
Background for understanding the meaning of the first pebble.
The actual existence of something can only be either intrinsically necessary to it or intrinsically possible. There is no third alternative. The intrinsically necessary to itself must exist, and its non-existence would be impossible. The intrinsically possible to itself might exist and it might not. The benefit of realizing this is that:
If something has a beginning it is only possible in existence.
If we can establish that something can cease to exist, or has a beginning, we can establish that it is possible in existence. Why is this true? Because its non-existence would then be possible, and hence its existence is not a must, but only intrinsically possible.
If something has an end, or could have an end, then it is only possible in existence.
This is because it’s non-existence is possible, and this means that its existence is not intrinsic to it.
The beginninglessly eternal does not accept non-existence.
This is because it is then clear that its existence is dependent on something else, and not intrinsic to it.
Moreover, if it accepted non-existence, then its period of existence would need to be specified. This means that it would then be only intrinsically possible in existence, because it depends on the specification of something else. This again means it would have a beginning, and it was assumed that it was beginningless, so this is a contradiction.
The beginninglessly eternal cannot be intrinsically possible in existence, so it must be necessary.
If we establish something as beginninglessly eternal, we can know that its existence is necessary. How is that? Well, because if you said it is without a beginning, you would have said that it does not need something else to specify its existence. This means that it must exist, and that its existence is intrinsic to itself.
The possible in existence must have a beginning.
That is, if something is possible in existence, it needs to be specified by something other than itself. After all, something that has many possible and alternative aspects to its existence, needs to have one alternative specified over another, such as the period of existence relative to other possible things. This other must be precedent to its existence to specify it, and it must be brought into existence according to this specification. This means that the possible cannot be beginningless, because it must have been brought into existence.
Moreover, if someone suggested that something possible in existence was beginningless, then he is saying that its existence is without prior non-existence. If it has no prior non-existence, however, then it would not be needing something else to exist. This means that its existence is intrinsic to it. Accordingly, it is self-contradictory to claim that something possible could be beginningless.
If something must exist due to something else, then it is intrinsically possible in existence.
If we say that something must exist, then this is either because of something else, or not. If it is because of something preceding it, then it is possible in existence. If it is not, then it is necessary in existence. This means that what must exist and is necessary in existence cannot end, because that would mean that its existence is not a must.
Clarifying what Asħ-Sħaykħ Muĥyiddiin is saying
He is saying that our minds tells us that the world is not intrinsically necessary in existence, but needs to be brought into existence. The reason for this is that it changes all the time by moving, being still, changing in shape and color, changing in composition, and so on. To clarify, these changes entail the cessation of one characteristic and the emergence of another, which tells us that the attribute was only possible in existence, and not necessary.
This means again that the world needs specification for how it is at any point in time. This specification either comes from something else that is possible in existence, namely a cause that occurs, or from something necessary in existence. The latter is what we believe. It cannot come from something possible in the final analysis, because all intrinsically possible things have a beginning.
If one said that there was an eternal series of possibly existent things in the past, leading up to the existence of what exists today, then this is contradictory. The contradiction is that one would have to say that an infinite series of beginnings came to pass before today. This is a contradiction, because infinity cannot pass, that is, infinity cannot finish.
We know then, that this world must have been brought into existence by a being that is necessary in existence. The idea that Aļļaah does not exist is thereby refuted by “the absolute need of anything intrinsically possible-in-existence to have its possibility of non-existence outweighed by the One that makes it so.”
The second pebble
وإن أتاك بأنه جوهر فارمه بالحصاة الثانية. وهو الدليل على الافتقار للتحيز والوجود بالغير.
"And if he comes to you suggesting that Allah is an essence, then throw at him with the second pebble; which is the proof that any essence is in absolute need of space existing in dependence on something else.”
The categories of the intrinsically possible existence.
Existence is either said to be only possible or necessary or impossible. The necessarily existent is Allah; whereas the possibly existent is anything that could exist and depends on its existence on being created, as we have explained previously. The possibly existent is either going to be something that exists in itself or in something else.
1. If it exists in itself (not in something else), then it is either going to be in a place or not.
i. If it is not, then this is what is called the stripped essence (الجوهر المجرد), which was affirmed as existent by the Greek philosophers, but the vast majority of scholars denied its existence; as there is no proof of it.
ii. If it is in a place, it is called the indivisible particle Al-Jawhar Al-Fard (not to be confused with the atom because the atom is divisible into electrons, protons, etc…).
Note that what the two essences have in common is that they depend on others in their existence, because their existence in only intrinsically possible.
2. If it exists in something else, then this is incidental characteristics (al-ˆarađ)
Clarifying what Asħ-Sħaykħ Muĥyiddiin is saying regarding the second pebble
He is saying that Aļļaah cannot be an essence, because essences are dependent in their existence, and therefore only possible. They need to be brought into existence by something else. For something in a space this is clear, because the position of the space and the amount of space can only be something possible. After all, if something is in a particular position, then it could just as well have been in another, which means that the position is possible. Likewise, the amount of space it occupies is possible, because it could be bigger and it could be smaller depending on its specification.
Even if it was hypothesized to be a stripped essence, that is, without space, it would still have to be created. This is because it is impossible that there should be two or more that are all intrinsically necessary in existence. The reason is that they would either be completely identical or different. They cannot be completely identical, because this would mean that they would not be different at all, which would mean that they are not more than one in the first place. If they were different, then they would need specification in terms of which one should have which eternal attribute to distinguish it, which would make them both in need of specification and therefore possible in existence.
The third pebble
Asħ-Sħaˆraaniyy continues his narration from Asħ-Sħaykħ Muĥyiddiin:
وإن أتاك بخاطر الجسمية، فارمه بحصاة الافتقار إلى الأداة والتركيب والأبعاض.
"So, if he comes to you with the suggestion of anthropomorphism (believing that Allah has bodily characteristics), then throw at him the pebble of (all bodies) need for instruments, composition and parts.”
Clarifying what Asħ-Sħaykħ Muĥyiddiin is saying regarding the third pebble
He is saying that a body is intrinsically dependent in its existence on having instruments, being composed and having parts coming together. This necessitates specification, which means it is only possible in existence, and Aļļaah’s existence must be necessary, or it would not be eternal. Note that it does not matter whether these parts of claimed to be inseparable or not, because having a tangible border necessitates specification of this border, which means that anything with a tangible border is only possible in existence.
Moreover, bodies or particles are either moving or still. First, a body that is moving, must have a beginning, because being in a place at a point of time has a before and an after. The beginninglessly eternal cannot be something that reaches a point which has a before and an after, because any such hypothetical point will have beginningless eternity ending before it, and this is contradictory. Moreover, if it was eternally moving, then its movement would be infinite in distance, and moving across an infinite distance cannot be concluded, which means that no existing body could have been eternally moving. Furthermore, if movement was an eternal attribute, then it would be necessary, and could never end, and we know without a doubt that movements can end.
If it is argued that a body could be still in eternity and not moving, then this would mean that it could never move; because it would mean that stillness is an eternal attribute without a beginning; that it is “beginninglessly still.”We know, however, that any object in a particular position could be in another one. This means that it must be possible, and not necessary, and therefore not eternal.
The fourth pebble
Asħ-Sħaˆraaniyy continues his narration:
وإن أتاك بالعرضية فارمه بحصاة الافتقار إلى المحل والحدوث بعد أن لم يكن.
"And if he comes to you with the suggestion of incidental/temporal characteristics then throw at him the pebble of need of something to exist in, and that of existence after non-existence.”
Clarifying what Asħ-Sħaykħ Muĥyiddiin is saying regarding the fourth pebble
Incidental characteristics are attributes of essences, like taking a place, movement, color, shape, odor, softness, sound, ideas, sequence, feelings, emotions, drives, needs, change, etc… These all need an essence to exist in, and essences can only be possible in existence, as they need to have their incidental characteristics specified.
The fifth pebble
Asħ-Sħaˆraaniyy continues his narration:
وإن أتاك بالعِلّية، فارمه بالحصاة الخامسة وهي كان الله ولا شيء معه.
"If he comes to you with the suggestion of ‘cause’, (which is the satanic suggestion that the effect is eternal with Him in existence,) then throw at him the fifth pebble, which is the affirmation that Allah existed and there was nothing else existing with Him.”
Clarifying what Asħ-Sħaykħ Muĥyiddiin is saying regarding the fifth pebble.
The Greek philosophers believed that Allah is the cause of the world’s existence not by choice (i.e. He did not create by choice, according to them). This meant that they believed one or more creations to be eternal. Similarly, Ibn Taymiyyah believed that the world (i.e. other than Aļļaah) is eternal, even though no particular creation is eternal. He says:
It is a necessity of Aļļaah’s self to act, but not an act in particular, and not having something done in particular, so there is no eternal object in the world, and He is not eternally a complete influencer for anything (to exist) in the world, but He has in beginningless eternity always been a complete influencer for something (to exist), one after another… (Aş-Şafadiyyah, 2/97)
Note that his statement “It is a necessity of Aļļaah’s self to act, but not an act in particular,” means that Aļļaah has no choice but to create something. This is a plain ascription of flaw to the Creator, and the one that has such a belief is light years away from being anything that can be called a Muslim. All Muslims must believe that Aļļaah does not need to, and is not compelled to, or obligated to, create at all, and does not achieve more perfection by it.
These claims of the philosophers and Ibn Taymiyyah then, contradict the Islamic belief. This is as indicated by the Qur’aan:
Meaning: "He is Al-Awwal.” (Al-Ĥadiid, 03)." This means that He existed before everything else, and that He was not preceded by non-existence or the existence of something else . Al-Bukħaariyy narrated that the Prophet Muĥammad r said:
"كان الله ولم يَكُنْ شَيْءٌ غَيْرُهُ"
"Aļļaah existed and there was nothing else" (Bukħaariyy No. 3019) Aļļaah’s existence then, does not resemble the existence of created things. It is a beginning-less, eternal and necessary existence, and is not affected by anything, or shared with anything. This is what Asħ-Sħaykħ Muĥyiddiin meant by “the affirmation that Allah existed and there was nothing else existing with Him.”
One important point needs to be stressed: Beginningless Eternity is not a past time. Rather, it is an expression by which we mean the existence of Aļļaah with the non-existence of time, place and all creation. Our minds naturally want to know what this precedence of the Creator with respect to His creation is. It is not in time, however, because time is possible in existence, as it is parts (moments) following each other in sequence, and these parts are definitely not eternal. The whole of time then, is made up of possible parts, and is therefore only possible in existence. Accordingly, the precedence of its Creator cannot be in time, not the least because that would make Him both in time and not in time, which is self-contradictory.
The reality of this, however, is not something the mind can grasp, because anything that enters the mind is in a situation of time. That is why Aļļaah being precedent is known by us in general, but not in detail or comprehensively.
وَرَبُّكَ يَخْلُقُ مَا يَشَاءُ وَيَخْتَارُ [القصص : 68]
Meaning: “Your Lord creates what He wills and chooses what He wills; nothing obligates Him and nothing prevents Him.” (Al-Qişaş, 68) (Tafsiir Al-Bayđaawiyy, 4/301)
The sixth pebble
Asħ-Sħaˆraaniyy continues his narration:
وإن أتاك بالطبيعة فارمه بالحصاة السادسة وهي دليل نسبة الكثرة إليه، وافتقار كل واحد من آحاد الطبيعة إلى الأمر الآخر في الاجتماع به إلى إيجاد الأجسام الطبيعية، فإن الطبيعة مجموع فاعلين ومفعولين حرارة وبرودة؛ ورطوبة ويبوسة، ولا يصح اجتماعها لذاتها ولا افتراقها لذاتها ولا وجود لها إلا في عين الحار والبارد والرطب واليابس.
"And if he comes to you with suggesting ‘nature’, then throw at him with the sixth pebble; which is the proof that (possible) multitude is dependent on Him in existence, and the need of each one of the natural elements for something else to join with in order to (hypothetically) bring natural bodies into existence.
For verily, nature is a collection of things that are actors and acted upon; respectively, heat and cold vs. moisture and dryness. And it is not correct that they get together (by intrinsic necessity) in themselves, nor that they separate by themselves (because these are possibilities in need of specification, and not necessities.) And they don’t exist except in the thing that is hot or cold, or moist or dry.”
Clarifying what Asħ-Sħaykħ Muĥyiddiin is saying regarding the sixth pebble
He is saying that since nature (the tempers: heat, cold, moisture, dryness, movement, etc.) are all possible in themselves. Moreover, they can’t exist without an essence to be in, which brings us back to the second proof which is that any essence needs a creator (because such an essence is only possible in existence). What he says here applies to modern atheists as well, who speaks of “natural laws,” such as gravity, as there is no gravity without bodies, and bodies cannot be eternal.
The seventh pebble
Asħ-Sħaˆraaniyy continues his narration:
وإن أتاك بالعدم وقال لك فإذا لم يكن الحق هذا ولا هذا من جميع ما تقدم فما ثمّ شيء، فارمه بالحصاة السابعة وهي دليل آثاره في الممكن، ومعلوم أن العدم لا تأثير له، وهو كلام نفيس.
"And if he comes to you suggesting ‘non-existence’ and says to you, ‘if Allah is not this and not that of all the things that have been mentioned previously, then there is nothing existing left!’ Then throw at him the seventh pebble, which is the proof of His influence on the possibly existing, and it is well known that what is non-existing cannot influence anything.”(Al-ˆUhuud Al-Muĥammadiyyah, 188)
Clarifying what Asħ-Sħaykħ Muĥyiddiin is saying regarding the seventh pebble
We know that Allah exists because this world can only be possible in existence, and therefore needs a Creator. This Creator then, definitely exists. He is not, however, anything like what we have perceived by our senses in this life. If He was, then He Himself would only be possible in existence and in need of a Creator. That is why Asħ-Sħaykħ Muĥyiddiin denied Aļļaah being an essence, anthropomorphism, being or having incidental/temporal characteristics, being a cause or nature. Human nature, however, is to imagine the reality of something it has not perceived, in terms of what has been seen. For this reason, denying that Aļļaah is like anything one knows, the feeble minded may jump to the conclusion that He is non-existent. This is fallacious, because it assumes that anything existing must be like what one has experienced, and this is completely unfounded.
Instead, as Asħ-Sħaykħ Muĥyiddiin indicates, one knows that Aļļaah exists by the existence of possible things, and rejects likeness to creation for the same reason, namely that anything like creation would itself need a creator. This is as narrated authentically by Ibn Ĥajar in Fatĥu-l-Baarii from Ibn ˆAbbaas,
“تفكروا في كل شيء ولا تفكروا في ذات الله”
"Ponder about everything, but do not ponder about the Self of Aļļaah." (Fatĥu-l-Baarii, 13/383) .
He said this because such dwelling leads one to draw analogies between the Creator and the created, which is blasphemy. Aţ-Ţaĥaawiyy said:
هذا ذكر بيان عقيدة أهل السنة والجماعة…. ومن وصف الله بمعنى من معاني البشر فقد كفر…. وتعالى الله عن الحدود والغايات والأركان والأعضاء والأدوات…. لا تحويه الجهات الست كسائر المبتدعات…. ولا نخوض في الله
This is a detailed remembrance of the belief of the People of the Sunnah and (following) the Jamaaˆah…. Whoever attributed to Aļļaah an attribute that has a meaning among the meanings that apply to humans has committed blasphemy…. Aļļaah is clear of and above having limits, extremes, corners, limbs or instruments…. The six directions (up, down, front, back, left and right) do not contain Him unlike all created things…. We do not engross ourselves in (thinking about the reality of) Aļļaah.
This completes the discussion on what Asħ-Sħaˆraaniyy narrated from Asħ-Sħaykħ Muĥyiddiin regarding the pebbles, wa laa quwwata illaa billaah.
Al-’Aˆlaam (2002). Az-Zirikliyy. Beirut, Lebanon: Dar El-Ilm Lil-Malayeen, 1423.
Al-Yawaaqiitu wa-l-Jawaahir. ˆAbdulWahhaab Asħ-Sħaˆraaniyy (898-973 AH/ 1493-1565 AD). Egypt: Al-Maba’ah al-Maymanyah. 12 Sep 2009 <http://www.archive.org/details/alyawqtwaaljawhi00sharuoft>.
Aş-Şafadiyyah. Aĥmad Ibn Taymiyyah (728 AH) Al-Ĥarraaniyy. Egypt: Maktabah Ibn Taymiyyah, 1406.
Fatĥu-l-Baarii Sħarĥu Şaĥiiĥi-l-Bukħaariyy. Ibn Ĥajar Al-ˆAsqalaaniyy. Beirut, Lebanon: Dar Al-Marefah, 1379.
Lawaaqiĥu-l-’Anwaari-l-Qudsiyyah Fii Bayaani-l-ˆUhuud Al-Muĥammadiyyah. ˆAbdulWahhab Asħ-Sħaˆraaniyy (898-973 AH/ 1493-1565 AD). Beirut, Lebanon: Dar Al-Kotob Al-ilmiya, 2005.
Tafsiir Al-Bayđaawiyy. Al-Bayđaawiyy (685 AH/ 1286 AD), NaşirudDiin. Beirut, Lebanon: Daar Al-Fikr.
قال ابن تيمية في الصفدية (2 / 97): وحينئذ فالذي هو من لوازم ذاته نوع الفعل لا فعل معين ولا مفعول معين فلا يكون في العالم شيء قديم وحينئذ لا يكون في الأزل مؤثرا تاما في شيء من العالم ولكن لم يزل مؤثرا تاما في شيء بعد شيء وكل أثر يوجد عند حصول كمال التأثير فيه.
The word "awwal" in Arabic means "first", but its meaning when referring to Aļļaah is as stated.
Muĥammad ibn Ismaaˆiil ibn Ibraahiim ibn al-Mugħiirah Al-Bukħaariyy (194 h. – 256 h.) is the author of the famous ĥadiitħ book “Şaĥiiĥ Al-Bukħaariyy”, which is recognized as the most authentic ĥadiitħ collection of all.
تفسير البيضاوى (4 / 301): وربك يخلق ما يشاء ويختار ( لا موجب عليه ولا مانع له )
Fatĥu-l-Baarii is the most important of all commentaries on Al-Bukħaariyy’s ĥadiitħ collection. It is written by Ibn Ĥajar Al-ˆAsqalaaniyy, who said that this narration from Ibn ˆAbbaas is good. Ibn Ĥajar is Aĥmad ibn ˆAliyy ibn Muĥammad Al-Kinaaniyy, Abuu Al-Fađl, SħihaabudDiin, Ibn Ĥajar (773-852 AH / 1372-1449 AD). He was the greatest scholar of ĥadiitħ in his time. He was also a great historian, linguist and poet. He was born in ˆAsqalaan in Palestine, but died and is buried in Cairo where he was a judge for many years. He wrote many valuable works in the ĥadiitħ sciences that are widely used, but the greatest of them is his commentary on Şaĥiiĥ Al-Bukħaariyy called Fatĥu-l-Baari’. He was also appointed as head judge of Egypt in his time.
Ibn ˆAbbaas was the son of the Prophet’s r paternal uncle Al-ˆAbbaas. The Prophet r asked Aļļaah to make him a great scholar, and so he became at an early age. The companions of the Prophet r called him “Turjumaan Al-Qur’aan” – the Translator of the Qur’aan.