Fatwa of the scholars of al-Azhar regarding the one who believes that Allah settles in created things or that He has a direction

Fatwa by Shaykh Abū Muhammad Mahmūd Khattāb Al-Subkīy al-Azharīy

Translated by Shaykh Abu Adam al Naruiji

[Introduction]

The Imām and great scholar, the muhaddith, The Renewer of the Religion, Abū Muhammad, Mahmūd Ibn Muhammad Ibn Ahmad Ibn Khattāb, Al-Subkīy, Al-Azharī, the founder of the Association of Islamic Law in Egypt, the author of Al-Manhal Al-‘Athb Al-Mawrūd Sharh Sunan Abī Dāwūd, who died 1352 H, #RH#, said in his book “Ithaf Al-Kā’ināt bi-Bayān Mathhab Al-Salaf wa Al-Khalaf Fi Al-Mutashābihāt“, page 2:

Praise to the Lord of the Worlds, Who is clear of the attributes of creation, like direction and body and place and physical highness, and may God raise the rank of Prophet Muhammad #SAW#, who wiped out shirk and blasphemy and ordered us to believe that Allāh is clear of created attributes and revealed to him in the Qur’ān that Allāh is one, doesn’t have a partner or parts, that He does not need anything or anyone, does not beget and was not begotten and that He has no equal, and also revealed to him that Allāh does not resemble anything and that He hears and sees everything. May Allāh also raise the rank of the Prophet’s companions and all those who imitated his ways.

After that, Mahmūd Ibn Muhammad Ibn Ahmad Ibn Khattāb, Al-Subkīy says:

[The question asked]

Some of those who desire knowledge about the beliefs of the religion and to stand firm in the school of the Salaf and Khalaf [1]with regard to the hadīths and āyāt that do not have a clear or well known meaning (mutashābihāt) asked the following:

What is the saying of the scholars, may Allāh protect them, regarding the one who believes that God has a physical direction, and that He sits on the throne in a special place and says, “this is the belief of the Salaf!” promotes this idea, and accuses those who deny this of blasphemy. All this while pointing to the 2 āyahs:

“Al-Rahmān ‘alā al-‘Arsh istawā”[2]

and

“‘a ‘amintum man fī Al-Samā'”[3]

Is this a valid or an invalid belief? If invalid, does the one who says so commit blasphemy so that all his previous works are annulled, such as prayer, fasting and other religious activities and is his marriage contract invalidated? If he dies in this state, before repenting, is he not washed and prayed for and buried in the graveyards of the Muslims? Is the one who believed that what this one is saying is true, also a non-muslim, like him? What is your saying about what some people say that denying that Allāh is attributed with the six directions (i.e. up, down, front, back and the two sides) is wrong, and that it entails denying His existence? Let us benefit from your showing of what the madh’hab of the salaf and the khalaf is in these two āyahs, and other āyahs, such as,

“‘ilayhi yas’ad Al-Kalim Al-Tayib”[4]

and the hadīth,

“yanzil Rabbunā ilā Al-Samā’ Al-Dunyā”[5]

with a complete and satisfactory explanation.

(Please) include the sayings of the scholars of hadīth, Qur’ān-explanation, fiqh and tawhīd, and clarify completely, so that the tongues of those who speak thoughtlessly are silenced – those who liken Allāh to His creation and believe that what the khalaf scholars did in terms of ta’wīl (interpreting figuratively) is blasphemy, while claiming that this is the way of the Jahmīyah, the blasphemous sect, and spread this rumor among the common people. May Allāh reward you!

[The Answer of The Imām Abū Muhammad Mahmūd Khattāb Al-Subkīy]

So I answered, by Allāh’s help, and said: In the name of Allāh, the one who is merciful to Muslims and non-Muslims in this life, but only to Muslims in the next. Praise be to Allāh, the Creator of true guidance, and may Allāh raise the rank of the one who was given wisdom and clear speech, and of those who support him and his companions, whom Allāh guided and gave success and steadfastness. After saying that, the judgment is that this belief is invalid, and the one who believes it is a non-muslim by the consensus of those who count among the scholars. [6]

[The proof in terms of reasoning]

The proof of reasoning for this is that Allāh’s existence is eternal without a beginning, and therefore does not resemble anything that has a beginning[7].

[The proof in terms of Qur’an and Hadīth]

In terms of what has been related, the proof is:

“He does not resemble anything, and He is All-Hearing, All-Seeing.” [8]

[The consequence of these proofs for the one who believes something contradictory to them]

Accordingly, anyone that believes that Allāh settled in a place, or was in contact with it or anything else that has a beginning, such as the ‘Arsh[9] or the Kursīy[10], or the sky, or the earth, or anything else – he is a blasphemer absolutely and without a doubt. All his religious works are invalid, such as prayer, fasting and Hajj, and his wife is separated, and he must repent (by returning to Islam) immediately. If he dies with this belief, then he is not washed, not prayed for, and he is not buried in the graveyard of the Muslims. In addition, all those who believed that his belief is the truth take this same judgment. May Allāh protect us from the evils of our selves and the liability of our bad deeds.

As for such a person’s encouragement of others to have such blasphemous beliefs, and his telling them that the one who does not have it is a blasphemer; this (activity of his) is (another) blasphemy and an abhorrent lie with the intent to spread deviance. As for him taking as evidence, according to his invalid claim, the two āyahs mentioned, and their likes, to show that Allāh settles on the ‘arsh, or sits on it, or descends in the sky or the like, as this group of people claims… They do this despite the fact that Allāh’s attribute of speech[11] is not created, and it is one of the eternal attributes of Allāh that existed before the ‘Arsh or the sky. That is, Allāh is attributed with “‘ala al-‘arsh istawa” before the ‘Arsh existed[12]. Moreover, was He sitting, according to them, on the non existing ‘arsh before it existed???!! Was He (according to them) in the sky before it existed???!!

These (sorts of claims) are something a rational being does not even hesitate about. Does sound reason accept that something eternal settles in something that has a beginning[13]?

Verily we are Allāh’s creation and we will return to be judged by Him!

In summary, this careless person and his likes have claimed something that cannot be verified; neither by reason, nor by what has been related.[14] They have committed blasphemy, and they think they have done something good! And the greatest calamity that they are struck by is that they claim to be salafīys, while they are deviants from the true path, and disgracing the best among the Muslims.

Verily, there is no power or ability other than what Allāh creates!

[The Salaf’s way of dealing with mutashābihāt]

Concerning the way of the Salaf (the scholars of the first 3 centuries) and Khalaf (scholars after the salaf) in dealing with the āyahs and hadīths that do not have only one possible or well-known meaning: they all agreed that Allāh is clear of and above the attributes of whatever has a beginning. Therefore, He does not have a place for Him on the ‘Arsh or the sky or anywhere else. He is also not attributed with settling in or on anything that has a beginning, and not with transformation or movement or the like. Rather, He is as He was before the existence of the ‘Arsh or the Kursiy or the skies and other things that have a beginning. The Hāfith (ibn Hajar al-Asqalani) said in al-Fath[15]: “the Fuqahā’ (fiqh scholars) all agreed, from east to west, upon the belief in the Qur’ān and the hadiths that trustworthy people related from the Prophet #SAW# about the attributes of Allāh, without likening them to creation or explanation.”

They only disagreed on the matter of explaining the meaning of these āyahs, so the salaf (i.e. most of them) believe in them as they were related and that they are not literally meant, because of the saying of Allāh which means, “He does not resemble anything and He is All-Hearing, All-Seeing”, and leave the meaning be, due to the saying of Allāh that means: “and no one knows their meaning except Allāh” [16]

Accordingly, they say regarding the Āyah “Al-Rahman ‘alā al-‘Arsh istawa” [17], that He “istawa” in a sense that befits Him, and only He knows it, and regarding the āyah “a ‘amintum man fī al-samā’[18] that we believe in it and the meaning that Allāh gave it, while clearing Him of the attributes of whatever has a beginning and of settling (in a place.) They also say about the Āyah yad-ullahi fawqa aydīyhim[19] that He has a “yad” not like our yad, and only Allāh knows it. This was their way in dealing with these āyahs that do not have only a single possible meaning or only one famous meaning.

[A saying of Ibn Kathīr and Nu’aym Ibn Hammād about mutashābihāt]

The great salafi[20] (i.e. that he was like the salaf in his ways, not that this is a mathhab) Imām Ibn Kathīr said: “As for the saying of Allāh thumma istawa ‘alā al-‘arsh [21], there are so very many sayings about this that this is not the place to mention them all, and we will rather take the way of the pious salaf, Malik, al-Awzā’īy, Al-Thawrīy, Al-Layth ibn Sa’d, Al-Shāfi’īy, Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Ishāq in Rāhwayh and other imāms, new and old, which is to pass by them without assigning to them a how, or a likeness, or deny them. As for the apparent literal meanings that come to the minds of those who liken Allāh to His creation; those are rejected, because He does not resemble anything, and there is nothing like Him, and He is All-Seeing, All-Hearing.

Rather, it is like what the imāms said, among them Nu’aym Ibn Hammād Al-Khuzā’īy, the Shaykh of Al-Bukhārīy: “The one who likens Allāh to His creation has committed blasphemy, and the one who denies what Allāh has attributed to Himself has also committed blasphemy. There is no (meaning of) likening (to the creation) in any of what Allāh has attributed to Himself or what the Prophet attributed to Him. So the one who affirms what has been related in plain āyahs and authentic hadiths in a way that is befitting with Allāh’s greatness, and denies that Allāh has any flaws; he has taken the path of guidance.” The like of the above is to be found in all tafseer books of the great imāms.

[Examples of how the Salaf dealt with mutashābihāt]

They say about the hadith “yanzil Rabbunā ilaā Al-Samā’ Al-Dunyā,” [22] that this has a meaning that befits Allāh, and that only Allāh knows it. Then there is another hadith, the Hadith of the Slave Girl related by Muslim and Abu Dāwūd where it is mentioned that the Prophet said to her: “aina Allāh?” and she said “fīy as-samā'”[23] and that he said “who am I?” and she answered “you are the Messenger of Allāh.” Then he said “free her, for she is a believer.”[24] This hadith is handled with the same approach as the āyah ‘a ‘amintum man fī as-samā’[25] and likewise all other such hadīths and āyahs. They took this approach because of the āyah that means:

“Aļļaah revealed to you (O Prophet) some Aayahs -called muĥkamaat (with a clear meaning[26]) and other aayahs – called mutasħaabihaat (that do not have a clear meaning[27]). Those with deviance in their hearts will emphasize the latter kind of aayahs in order to spread deviance (i.e. by contradicting the meaning of the muĥkamaat) and explain the meaning (in a way that agrees with their sick hearts.) Only Aļļaah knows their meaning. And the steadfast in knowledge, they say: “we believe in them, they are all from Our Lord.” (and there is no contradiction between them). Only the sound minded take heed and ponder this.”

The salaf[28] said there is a full stop in the āyah after, “only Allāh knows their meaning.” As for the “steadfast in knowledge” mentioned after this in the Qur’ān; this is the beginning of a new sentence (i.e. they do not know the meaning) to show that the great scholars believe in these āyahs, (i.e. without assigning a particular meaning. Note, however, that the prophet and at least some of the companions definitely knew the exact meaning of all statements ascribing attributes to Allaah – it is just that some of them became ambiguous to later generations and thus became mutasħaabihaat.)

[The Khalaf’s way of dealing with mutashābihāt]

As for the Khalaf[29] ; they say[30] that these āyahs and hadiths have a known meaning, so the meaning of “istawā[31] is “control”, and the meaning of “man fī as-samā’[32] is that it is a figure of speech referring to His punishment, authority and orders, or it is simply a figurative way of praising Allāh by attributing to Him aboveness and greatness, and clearing him of lowliness or belowness, not that He settles in it. This is because settlement is an attribute of bodies and signifies having a beginning, and Allāh is clear of that. [33]

The meaning of nuzūl (literally translated “descending”) in the hadīth is that His Messenger or His Mercy descends.[34] As for the Prophet’s approval of the slave-girl’s hint towards the sky; this was a concise way from her of showing that she was not associating partners with Allāh, because it was thereby known that she did not worship the idols on earth. [35]

This is the way of the khalaf in all āyahs and hadiths of this kind, based on their saying that the full stop in the āyah about the āyahs that do not have a single possible, or well known, meaning comes after only Allāh knows their meaning and those steadfast in knowledge,” i.e. the steadfast in knowledge knows their meaning. [36] Their proof is that the Qur’ān is in Arabic, and this Arabic uses these expressions. However, the weightiest opinion is that of the salaf. [37]

The one who attributes to the salaf or khalaf other than this is a deviant and a deviator.

[The Jahmīyah are very different from the Khalaf]

The one who claims that the way of the khalaf is the way of the Jahmīyah is a transgressor and a liar, because the Jahmīyah are the followers of Jahm Ibn Safwān, who said that humans are forced to do what they do and denied all ability to humans, and claimed that Paradise and Hell will end. He also claimed that belief is only knowledge of Allāh, whereas blasphemy is not knowing Him.[38] He said that no one does anything except Allāh, and that humans are said to have actions only as a figure of speech, in the same way one says that “the sun passed its zenith” or the “mill turned,” without any actual real action or ability from them. He also claimed that Allāh’s knowledge has a beginning, and prevented people from saying that Allāh is attributed with life, knowledge or will. He said “I don’t attribute to Him an adjective that can be used for others, such as existing, alive, willing and such,” and accepted to say that He has power, brings into existence, acts, creates, gives life and death, because only He has these attributes. He also claimed that Allāh’s attribute of speech has a beginning, as the Qadarīyah sect did, and refused to say that Allāh speaks. Our companions said he was a blasphemer for all his deviances, and the Qadarīyah said he was an infidel for his claim that Allāh creates the acts of humans, so all those who claim to be following the call of Prophet Muĥammad said that he was a Kāfir. Here ends the quote (i.e. the above description of the Jahmīyah) from the book “Al-Farq Baina Al-Firāq“, written by the Imām Abū Mansūr ‘Abd-ul-Qādir Ibn Tāhir Al-Baghdādīy, page 199. From this you know that the scholars of the Khalaf are clear of any association with this sect and its claims.

[An answer to those that claim that denial of direction is denial of existence]

As for the idea that denying that Allāh is attributed with any of the six directions is a denial of His existence, this is obviously invalid since Allāh existed before they existed, namely up, down, front, back, left and right. Rather, He existed before the world as a whole by consensus of ancient and later scholars. How then does someone that has even a tiny mind picture that clearing Him of being attributed with these 6 directions is the same as denying His existence??!! How can it be imagined that the Eternal Allāh’s existence depends on some things that have a beginning, or all of those that He created??!!

You (Oh Allāh) are clear of all imperfection!

This is a great lie! How (could it not be a lie), when a number of the salaf and the khalaf have plainly stated that the one who believes that Allāh is in a direction (i.e. up) is a blasphemer, as was stated by Al-Baghdadīy. This was also the saying of Abu Hanifa, Malik, Al-Shāfi’īy, Abu Hasan Al-Ash’arīy and Al-Bāqillānīy, as mentioned by the great scholar Mullāh Alīy Qārīy in “Sharh al-Mishkāt” in the second volume on page 137.[39] Allāh said what means that “real blindness is not that of the eyes, but that of the heart” (al-Hajj, 46.) and that “if Allāh has not created the light of guidance in someone’s heart, then he will never be guided” (al-Nūr, 40).

We ask Allāh to guide us all on the straight path and block the misguidance of the cursed Satan, and to raise the rank of The Last Of The Prophets #SAW#, and whoever follows him in his works.

[Scholars that signed this fatwa]

After writing this, I have shown this answer to a number of honorable scholars of al-Azhar University, and they have agreed and signed it, and they are the following distinguished companions of ours:

Shaykh Muhammad Najdīy, the Shaykh of the Shāfi’iy followers.

Shaykh Muhammad Sabī’ Al-Dhahabiy, the Shaykh of the Hanbalīy followers.

Shaykh Muhammad Al-‘Izbiy Rizq, the lecturer in the higher section.

Shaykh Abdul-Hamīd ‘Ammār, the lecturer in the higher section.

Shaykh Ali Al-Nahrāwi, the lecturer in the higher section.

Shaykh Dusūqīy Abdullah Al-‘Arabi, from the Council of the Great Scholars.

Shaykh Ali Mahfūth, the lecturer in specialization section of Azhar.

Shaykh Ibrahim ‘Ayārah Al-Daljamūni, lecturer in specialization section of Azhar.

Shaykh Muhammad ‘Alyān, from great scholars of Azhar.

Shaykh Ahmad Makki, the lecturer in specialization section of Azhar.

Shaykh Muhammad Husayn Hamdān.


[1] The Salaf are the scholars of the first three centuries after the Hijrah, while the Khalaf are those after that.

[2] Surah Tāhā, 5; its pronunciation is: Al-Rahmān ‘alā al-‘Arsh istawā. If someone translated this statement literally, he would say: Al-Rahmān (The Merciful) ‘alā (on) Al-‘Arsh (The Throne) istawā (established Himself); “The Merciful established Himself on the throne”. This is not the meaning of the statement, however, and the Arabic Language is not limited to this meaning. Rather, the verb “istawā’” in the Arabic language has some 14 different meanings. Moreover, the word Al-‘Arsh does not necessarily mean “throne”, it could also mean “dominion”, and some of the Salaf said that. Abu Mansūr Al-Baghdādīy said in his book Usūlu-d-Dīn, in summary: “Our colleagues differed regarding this āyah. Some said that it is among the āyahs that are Mutashābihāt whose meaning is not known by other than Allāh, and this is the saying of Mālik. Others said that istawā is something that Allāh did to the ‘Arsh that He called istawā, and this is the saying of Abu-l-Hasan Al-Ash’arīy. Others again said that istawa means that He is attributed with aboveness over the `Arsh without contact (i.e. in status, not physical aboveness.) The correct saying in our view, is that Al-‘Arsh in this Ayah means the Dominion and istawā is its action, meaning that the Dominion did not settle in equilibrium for anyone but Him.”

In case anyone is wondering who Abū Mansūr is, Al-Dhahabīy described him in his book Sīyar A’lām Al-Nubalā’ as: “the great, outstanding, and encyclopedic scholar…. He used to teach 17 different subjects and his brilliance became the source for proverbs.” Al-Dhahabīy said further that he would have liked to write a separate, more complete article about him, and quoted Abū ‘Uthmān Al-Sābūnīy saying: “Abū Mansūr is by scholarly consensus counted among the heads of the scholars of belief and the methodology of jurisprudence, as well as a front figure of Islām.”

[3] Surah al-Mulk, 16; its pronunciation is: ‘a ‘amintum man fi-s-Samā’. If someone translated it literally, he would say: ‘a ‘amintum (Do you feel safe from) man (who) fīy (is in) Al-Samā’ (the sky); “Do you feel safe from who is in the sky?” This second Ayah can be dealt simply with by saying that the pronoun “who” refers to the angels. After all, the Sky is their abode, and they bring winds and other tribulations to Earth by Allāh’s orders. In other words, there is nothing which says that this āyah must be taken literally, or that it refers to Allāh.

[4] Its pronunciation is: ‘ilayhi yas’adu-l-Kalimu-N-Tayyib. If translated literally, it would say: ilayhi (to Him) yas’adu (ascends) Al-Kalim Al-Tayyib (the good words). Al-Imām Al-Nasafīy said in his tafsīr, explaining this āyah: “to Him” means “to the status of acceptance and reward”, not that Aļļaah is in the direction up. All things that are characterised by acceptance are described with highness and ascendancy. Source: Tafsīr Al-Nasafīy.

[5] Its pronunciation is: “yanzilu Rabbunā ila-s-Samā’i-d-Dunyā “. If someone translated it literally, he would say: yanzil (descends) Rabbunā (Our Lord) ilā (to) Al-Samā’ (the Sky) Al-Dunyā ((of) the World); “Our Lord descends to the sky of the world.” Ibn Al-Jawzīy said, in summary, regarding this hadīth: “I have mentioned earlier, in things like this, that it is an obligation upon us to know what it is possible to be an attribute of Allāh, and what is impossible to be an attribute of His. Among the things that it is impossible that Allāh should be attributed with is movement, transport and change. The scholars have two approaches to the remaining meanings: one is to remain silent without assigning a specific meaning. They said, “Narrate it on, without saying it has a modality”. This was the approach of the Salaf in general. The second approach is to assign an acceptable meaning, knowing that movement cannot be an attribute of Allāh. The Imām Ahmad said “wa jā’ Rabbuka” means: “His orders came”” (P. 3/379, Kashf Al-Mushkil).

Ed. This is what this great Hanbalīy scholar said. Note that “wa jā’ Rabbuka” if literally translated, would state: wa (and) jā’ (He came) Rabbuka (your Lord). In other words, Al-Imām Ahmad is one of those among the Salaf that sometimes would interpret figuratively to protect people from misunderstanding in dangerous ways. Source: P. 3/379, Abū Faraj Ibn Al-Jawzīy. Kashf Al-Mushkil. 4 vols. Riyadh: Dar Al-WaTan, 1997.

[6] Ibn Al-Mu’allim Al-Qurashīy, in his book Najmu-l-Muhtadīy on page 588 narrates from ‘Alīy ibn Abī Tālib, the fourth Khalīfah: “A people of this Nation (of the Prophet Muhammad #SAW#) shall return to being blasphemers when the Day of Judgment is near.” A man asked, “O Prince of the Believers! What is their blasphemy for? Is it for inventing something, or for denying something?” ‘Alīy #RA# replied: “It is for denial. They deny their Creator; they say that He is attributed with a body and limbs.” E.d. What we observe today testifies to the soundness of the meaning of this narration.

To understand why this is denial of Allāh’s existence, it is useful to mention what the great and encyclopedic scholar of the 6th century after the Hijrah, Al-Fakhr Al-Rāzīy said when explaining the statement “qātilu-lladhīna lā yu’minūna bi-llāh” in the Qur’ān (Al-Tawbah, 29): “The evidence shows that the one who says that Allāh is a body has denied Allāh’s existence. The reason is that the God of the World exists, and is not a body or positioned in a body. Therefore, if the one who says that Allāh is a body denies this existence (without a body) then he has denied Allāh’s existence. It is correct to say then, that the one who says that Allāh is a body does not believe in Allah.” (Mafātīh Al-Ghayb, Al-Rāzīy).

The famous Shāfi’īy scholar, Al-Suyūtīy, said in Al-Ashbāh wa-n-Nathā’ir P. 488: “Al-Shāfi’īy said: I do not say that the people that have somewhat deviant ideas (ahlu-l-ahwā’) are non-Muslims,” but he exempted those who say that Allāh has a body and those who say that Allāh does not know all details of things.” Ed. In other words, those who have deviance to the extent of blasphemy. Abū Mansūr Al-Baghdādīy, in his book Usūlu-d-Dīn, states about those who say that Allāh has a body, or that events happen in Him or His attributes (such as hearing or seeing one thing after another as they happen to creation) : “All those who disagreed with them say that they are blasphemers, so in this respect they are the worst of all the deviant sects.”(P. 338 ) He also commented: “By claiming that Allāh has events happen to Him, they ruined for themselves the proof of the monotheists which holds that bodies are creations since they have events in them. Based on this principle of theirs, they cannot prove that the world has a beginning, and thus they have no way of knowing the Creator of the world. Consequently, they are like all others who do not know Him.” (P. 337-338 ). That is, they are idolaters.

Al-Qurtubīy in his commentary in the Qur’ān narrates from his Shaykh Ibn Al-‘Arabīy regarding the those who say Allāh has a body: “The sound verdict is that they are blasphemers, because there is no difference between them and those that worship idols and pictures. Thus they are requested to repent from this belief, and if they refuse they are killed.” (4/14).

The encyclopedic scholar Abu Ja’far Al-Tahāwīy said in his famous text on the Islamic Belief: “This is a detailed remembrance of the belief of the People of (adherence to) the Sunnah (what was narrated of sayings, deeds and confirmations from the Prophet #SAW#) and (following) the Jamā’ah (the companions of the Prophet).”

That is: the belief of the Sunnis, and all the scholars agreed with him on this. Then later on, he mentions as one of the beliefs of the Sunnis that: “ًWhoever attributed to Allāh a meaning that is of the meanings that apply to human beings has committed blasphemy.”

Note, in light of the above, that what has been mentioned in some scholarly books in terms of not claiming Al-Mujassimah non-Muslims needs careful explanation. Its explanation is that the word Mujassim is used for the person that says Allāh is a jism. The word jism means body in English, but that does not mean that it understood in exactly the same way always, or that it has the same connotations. For this reason I have not translated Mujassim as “those that believe Allāh is a body” to explain this particular point; what applies to the use of the word jism in Arabic does not necessarily apply to using the word “body” in English. With this in mind; the scholars that mention a difference of opinion regarding saying that Allāh is a jism mean a particular group among these perpetrators, not all of them. They mean those among the foolish and uneducated commoners that say this, but do not understand from this the usual linguistic meaning of size, shape or direction. They simply mean by jism Allāh’s existence, and not any of the meanings that apply to human beings, such as direction or size. The remaining perpetration then, is the use of a this word regarding Allāh. In this there is a difference of opinion, but only regarding people who are uneducated who say this, not scholars. Those who said that this is blasphemy even so, argued that this person was willing to use this word about Allāh, without it having been narrated in any revealed text, and knowing what this word usually refers to. He has therefore shown disrespect to the Creator, like a person who said that Allāh has a son, but meant by it only that he is highly accepted by Allāh; he is still unquestionably a blasphemer by the explicit verdict of the Qur’ān regarding even uttering this word.

The view that it is blasphemy to merely use the word jism , even if one only meant existence, was considered weightiest by Ibn Amīr Al-Hājj, the student of the great Hanafīy Imām Ibn Al-Humām and the Prince of Believers in Hadīth, Ibn Hajar Al-‘Asqalānīy in his book At-Taqrīr Wa-t-Tahbīr (3/319), narrating from Ibn Al-Humām’s book “Al-Musāyarah“. Along the same lines it is stated in Al-Fatāwā Al-Hindīyah, which is a reliable book for fatwā in the Hanafīy school: “If someone said: “Allāh fīy Al-Samā,” (literally “in the Sky”) then: if he intended simply to imitate what is mentioned in apparent scriptures, then he has not blasphemed; if he meant by it the (sky as a) place then he has blasphemed; and if (he said to the judge in court that) he did not intend any particular meaning, then he has blasphemed according to most, and this is the soundest opinion, and it is the chosen fatwā.” (2/259).

In summary, the difference of opinion is regarding what appears to be the case about someone else’s belief according to what he utters with his tongue, and not regarding someone who believes that Allāh has a limit, shape or size. This is because such a person believes that Allāh has attributes with the meaning of creation, and then the belief of the Sunnis applies, as stated by Al-Tahāwīy: “ًWhoever attributed to Allāh a meaning that is of the meanings that apply to human beings has committed blasphemy.”

Note finally the subtle eloquence of Al-Tahāwīy’s choice of the words ” a meaning that is of the meanings”, because this provides the general rule that the meaning is the main concern. So for example, the person who says that Allāh moves, or has a limit or a size, or a limb; he is a kāfir, even if says, “not like His creation”, because these are all meanings that apply to human beings. Saying: “not like His creation” will not help him, because the aspect of physical dimension remains in the meaning. One can further understand from this that if a person uses an expression about Allāh that has a single known meaning in his language, and this meaning applies to human beings, then he has committed kufr. If it has non-blasphemous meanings as well, then it needs to be established that he meant the blasphemous meaning before he is considered a blasphemer.

The difference of opinion can sometimes also refer to whether every member of a sect is considered a blasphemer for merely belonging to their group. So for example, those sects that went completely overboard and made it their basic distinguishing characteristic that they worship ‘Alīy, or something of that nature, all members of such sects are considered blasphemers without further inquiry. In other cases, like people associated with the Mu’tazilites or Khawārijites; in these cases it is not clear that a person actually accepts and believes all the beliefs associated with them. The scholars will thus sometimes disagree whether a person associated with a particular sect is automatically considered a blasphemer, or that he will only be considered a sinful Muslim as long as he has not made it clear that he has one of their blasphemous beliefs. For example, it may be the case that some of the uneducated members of the Wahhābīy sect do not believe that Allāh has attributes with physical dimensions, such as a place or a direction.

[7] All aspects of creation, be it physical things or their attributes, has a beginning. There is nothing about Aļļaah’s attributes, however, that has a beginning. It is therefore impossible that He should resemble anything created in any of its aspects, because whatever the aspect of creation might be, it is going to be something with a beginning. Having a beginning necessitates having a creator to bring it into existence. Likening Aļļaah to His creation then, is equivalent to saying that He has a creator or is partially created, and that is identical to the blasphemy of the Christians.

[8] The meaning of al-Shurā, 11; what Al-Subkīy has mentioned is enough for the sound minded, because Islam does not teach something contradictory – all its teachings are harmonious in meaning. However, in order to bring hadīths as well as Qur’ān and logical reasoning, he might have added that Al-Bayhaqīy, Muslim and others, related the hadīth of the Messenger of Allāh, #SAW#: “You are Al-Dhāhir, hence there is nothing above You, and You are Al- Bātin, hence there is nothing underneath You.” Al-Bayhaqīy said (in his book “Al-Asmā’ wa as-Sifāt”): “If there is nothing above Him and nothing underneath Him, then He is not in a place.”

[9] Sometimes translated as “throne” – it is a creation with 4 legs, and is like the Ka’bah for the Angels

[10] Sometimes translated as “chair”.

[11] The revealed book of the Qur’ān refers to Allāh’s attribute of speech (which does not have a beginning, or an end, and does not change – as is true for all of His attributes), just as the word “Allāh” refers to the Creator and is not Him Himself. Words, languages, letters and sounds are all obviously created things – if someone is in doubt, let them say “bismi-llāh-ir-Rahmān-ir-Rahīm” without a beginning or an end! The fact that uttering it necessitates a beginning means that it is created, because anything with a beginning must have been brought into existence, and this is the definition of creating; to bring into existence. That is, when someone utters a word, it means that Aļļaah has created in him/her this utterance, and that he/she committed it by His will. The word “Qur’ān” in Arabic may refer to Allāh’s eternal attribute of speech or to the book. It is blasphemy to say that the Qur’ān is created if one means Allāh’s attribute. It is a sin (but not blasphemy) to say so if one is referring to the book, because it is inappropriate and a bid’ah. Some said, however, that it may be said for teaching purposes, if one feels it is necessary in order to avoid misunderstandings.

[12] i.e. Because Allāh attributed to Himself eternally “‘ala al-‘Arsh istawā“, and since the ‘Arsh is a creation with a beginning, the meaning of istawā cannot be a physical relationship, such as establishment, sitting or hovering. After all, such a physical relationship would have to have a beginning.

[13] Something eternal cannot be changing, because change itself has a beginning. The thing that changes must therefore be something that has a beginning, because it is clear that its existence is not a necessity; not a must. This is clear because its changing from one state to another shows that none of its states are necessary; they are mere possibilities. That is, one cannot say that this thing in any of its state must exists. If the thing’s existence is not a necessity, then something must have brought it into existence, and therefore it must have a beginning.

[14] Subkīy’s saying that this belief “cannot be verified neither by reason, nor by what has been related” needs some explanation. In terms of reason it is clear, because Allāh is eternal, and directions are not, as Al- Subkīy has already pointed out. With regard to what has been related; the scholars all agreed that all hadīth and Qur’ān sayings must be understood by their apparent meaning, with two exceptions only:

The first exception is if taking it literally would lead to the absurd, i.e. it is self contradictory, such as saying “a square circle” or “the part is larger than the whole.” Saying that Allāh is actually in a geographical direction leads to saying either that directions are eternal or that Allāh changed from being without direction to having a direction. This cannot be, because direction is an attribute of space, and space is attributed with change, therefore it must be a creation. Moreover, it cannot be that Allāh changes, because that would mean He needs a creator.

The second exception is if there are other hadīths and Qur’ānic sayings that contradict the literal meaning. In this case there are many texts that contradicts the claim that Allāh is in a direction, among them: “He does not resemble anything,” as Al-Subkīy mentioned. This latter text is taken literally in the absolute sense, because sound reasoning tells us that this must be so, as explained in footnote #8.

[15] Fathu-ul-Bārīy – the explanation of Al-Bukhārīy.

[16] Sūrah 3, 5 – more details later.

[17] See footnote #…..

[18] See footnote #….

[19] Sūrah al-Fath, 10; its pronunciation is: “yadu-llāhi fawqa ‘aydīhim”. If someone translated it literally, he would say: yadu (the hand) Allāhi (of Allāh) fawqa (is above) ‘aydīhim (their hands). The word yad in Arabic can mean power, among other things. Ibn Al-Jawzīy in his commentary on the Qur’ān states regarding this āyah: “the fourth view (regarding its explanation) is : “His power and support is above theirs. This was stated by Ibn Jarīr and Ibn Kaysān.”

[20] i.e. that he was like the Salaf in his ways, not that this is a Madhhab. Ibn Katħiir was a Sħaafiˆiy scholar.

[21] See footnote #….

[22] Its pronunciation is: “yanzilu Rabbunā ila-s-Samā’i-d-Dunyā“. If someone translated it literally, he would say: yanzil (descends) Rabbunā (Our Lord) ilā (to) Al-Samā’ (the Sky) Al-Dunyā ((of) the World); “Our Lord descends to the sky of the world.” It is a figure of speech for acceptance, and does not mean movement, or it refers to the angel that descends at that time; i.e. His angel descends. See details in footnotes above.

[23] If someone translated it literally, he would say that “ayna Allāh?” means: “where is Allāh?” and that her saying “fiy Al-Samā’” (pronounced fi-s-Samā’) means: fiy (in) Al-Samā’ (the sky). The meaning is not literal, because it is impossible that Aļļaah should be in a place. Rather, it is a question about status, not place or direction, as shown in the below footnote.

[24] This hadīth, also called “the hadīth of the slave girl” cannot be taken literally and adopted as a belief for the following reasons:

First, because this hadīth is singularly transmitted so it does not give certainty and the obligation of believing something about Allah can only be established by proofs that provide certainty.

Second, this narration is weak according to some scholars, because there are other narrations which use different wording. For example, the authenticated and sound narration in the hadīth collection Musannaf ‘AbdurRazzāq, which reads, “Do you testify that ‘la ilāha ill-Allāh’ (there is none worthy of worship except Allah)?” In addition, although some narrations of this hadīth states that the Prophet called her a “believer”, not all of them state that.

Third, the apparent meaning that Allah is in a direction with regards to His creation is rejected by thesound intellect as absurd.

Fourth, the disputed text in the singular hadīth which literally states “Where is Allah?” does not fit with the well-known principles set forth to determine if someone is Muslim. The principle is that one asks them to testify that there is no god but Allah, and that Muhammad is His prophet and Messenger.

Fifth, it contradicts sound hadīths in the same collection (Muslim) that clearly show that Allah is neither above nor below any created thing, namely, “You are Al-dhāhir so there is nothing above You. And You are Al-Bātin, so there is nothing below you.”

Sixth, it contradicts the statement in the Qur’ān that means, “Absolutely nothing resembles Him in any way at all, and He is All-Hearing, All-Seeing.” This statement is what the Muslims have taken as their basic guide in their belief in absolute terms, and any other statements in hadīth or Qur’ān are understood accordingly.

Seventh, it contradicts the geographical reality that what is up in Saudi Arabia is down in the Fiji Islands. It also conflicts with the fact that the earth turns, so that what is up at one point in time is another direction at another time.

For these reasons, the hadīth of the slave girl is given an acceptable figurative interpretation. Such an interpretation is to say that the word “ayna” (where) in Arabic is commonly used as a question about status, not only about place, such as in, “‘Ayna anta wa ‘Uthmān”, literally: “Where are you and ‘Uthmān?” meaning: “Where is your status compared to ‘Uthmān?” Her answer, literally translated as “in the sky,” means “very high”, just as one in English might use the expression “sky high”, without this meaning place, direction or distance. In other words, what she meant to say was that Allāh’s status is very high, unlike those worshiped idols on the ground.

[25] See footnote #….

[26] Āyahs that have only one meaning according to the Arabic language or only one famous meaning, such as those prescribing halāl and Harām.

[27] The opposite of muhkamāt; they do not have a clear or well known meaning.

[28] i.e. the Salaf in general, not all of them. See footnote above regarding the meaning of the hadīth “yanzilu Rabbunā…etc.”.

[29] Scholars after the 3rd century.

[30] i.e. it is more prevalent among them to say, not that they all say that.

[31] See footnote #….

[32] See footnote #….

[33] Also, understanding it literally contradicts āyah 93 of the Sūrah Maryam, which means: “All those in the heavens and earth must come to Allāh as a slave.” It is possible also that the word “who” is referring to the angels, because the sky is their abode. Finally, the sky is below the ‘Arsh (Throne) …

[34] The original hadīth text attributes the “nuzūl” to the last 3rd of the night, and since it is always the last 3rd of the night somewhere on earth, we know that the meaning is not at all that Allāh is moving from one place to the sky at that time, because it is always that time somewhere.

[35] Also, some scholars said the hadīth has weaknesses in its text, because ‘AbdurRazzāq related it without any mention of the words “ayna?” or “fi-s-Samā’“.

[36] He is referring to the last part of the āyah rendered in interpretation earlier as: “Only Aļļaah knows their meaning. And he steadfast in knowledge say: “we believe in them, they are all from Our Lord.”…” This rendering is according to the way of the Salaf in general; avoiding figurative interpretation of statements that do not have a clear or well known meaning. Note, however, that what is not clear or well known depends on the generation. There is no doubt that what some of the later salaf considered ambiguous was clear to at least some of their predecessors. Definitely the Prophet himself and companions like Ibn ˆAbbaas knew the meanings of all ayahs referring to the attributes of Allah, even if some of them were later considered ambiguous. The way of the Khalaf that Al-Subkīy is referring to is to render the interpretation differently through changing the place of the full stop as follows from: Only Aļļaah knows their meaning. And the steadfast in knowledge, they say: “we believe in them, they are all from Our Lord.” to: Only Aļļaah knows their meaning and the steadfast in knowledge. They say: “we believe in them, they are all from Our Lord.”

[37] Note: he means of course that the majority of the Salaf take this approach to this āyah, not absolutely all, since that would be consensus (ijmā’), and ‘ijmā’ cannot be contradicted once it has been established on an issue. It has already been mentioned in previous footnotes that the scholar of the Salaf Ahmad ibn Hanbal affirmed a figurative explanation of “wa jā’ Rabbuka” as meaning “His orders came”. I.e. There is no ‘ijmā’, except on a few mutashābihāt, like those that refer to the timing of the Day of Judgment. The mutashaabihaat that refer to the attributes of Allah were definitely known in meaning to the Prophet, and at least some of the companions.

[38] This is lunacy, because Iblīs definitely knows Allāh and is despite of that, a blasphemer.

[39] A number of scholarly sayings have already been mentioned in previous footnotes, but it is worth adding here that Ibn Hajar Al-Haytamīy said in Al-Minhāj Al-Qawīm Sharhu-l-Muqaddimah Al Hadramīyah: “Know that Al-Qarāfīy and others narrated from Al-Sħāfi’īy, Mālik, Ahmad and Abū Hanīfah #RH# that those who say that Allāh is in a direction, or has a body, have committed blasphemy — and they deserve this verdict.”

13 Responses to Fatwa of the scholars of al-Azhar regarding the one who believes that Allah settles in created things or that He has a direction

  1. faqir says:

    sidi there is a smiley face in footnote 6 after p. 33

  2. thewahhabimisanthrope says:

    So according to you, I am a kafir for believing in Allah’s `uluww, which He described Himself with, and the scholars and prophets (`alayhum ussalam) attributed to Him, and the muminun ascribed to Him, from time immemorial? I have no doubt that for this crime of unjust takfir the Asha`ira and all their friends will get what they deserve. I can’t wait until the day when this dispute will be resolved by the one who described Himself with `uluww, subhanahu.

  3. thewahhabimisanthrope,

    Believing in Aļļaah’s ˆuluww, without resemblance to creation is a must. It is also a must to believe that this is not an ˆuluww of physical direction and location, because this is equivalent to ascribing to Aļļaah a limit. The great scholar of the Salaf Aţ-Ţaĥaawiy stated {in brackets}: {Aļļaah is above} the status of {having limits, extremes, corners, limbs or instruments.} {The six directions} up, down, front, back, left and right {do not contain Him} because that would make Him {like all created things}. He also agreed that believing that anything else is an insult to Islam, for he said: {Whoever attributed to Aļļaah an attribute that has a meaning among the meanings that apply to humans has committed blasphemy.} Note that he said this after having already pointed out that the six directions apply to all created things, which includes humans. So Aţ-Ţaĥaawiyy is saying that the Jihawiyy, the one that believes that Aļļaah is in a direction, is indeed a kafir.

    Ibn Al-Jawziyy. the famous Ĥanbaliyy scholar, in “Daf’ Shubah al-Tashbhi”, said: “And they (the corrupt Ĥanbaliyys) made Aļļaah’s aboveness physical, and forgot that physical aboveness can only be for a body, or an indivisible element, and that aboveness can be used for the meaning of high status, for one may say for example, ‘so and so is above so and so’.” In other words, Ibn Al-Jawziyy is saying that in no way shape or form is the denial of physical direction and physical aboveness a denial of an aboveness (ˆuluww) that is not physical.

    This same thing was stated by the most eloquent of all creation, Prophet Muĥammad, as narrated by Muslim and Al-Bayhaqiyy:
    اللهم أنت الْأَوَّلُ فَلَيْسَ قَبْلَكَ شَيْءٌ وَأَنْتَ الْآخِرُ فَلَيْسَ بَعْدَكَ شَيْءٌ وَأَنْتَ الظَّاهِرُ فَلَيْسَ فَوْقَكَ شَيْءٌ وَأَنْتَ الْبَاطِنُ فَلَيْسَ دُونَكَ شَيْءٌ
    “O Aļļaah, You are the First, so there is nothing before You, and You are the Last so there is nothing after You. You are Al-Ţħaahir so there is nothing above You. And You are Al-Baaţin, so there is nothing below you.” If there is nothing above Him and nothing below Him, then He is not a body or a direction, and He does not have physical specification.

    Abu Adam

  4. IrfanIbnIsmail says:

    assalaamu alaikum

    what about those who say Allah is settled( istiqrar) above the throne without contact or touching etc ??

  5. IrfanIbnIsmail says:

    2) which category of verses do the sifat of Allah fall under i.e figuative or clear ?

    3)do we know the meanings of the sifat of Allah??

    we know the meaning when we say Allah is attributed with hearing etc.
    but when we say Allah is attributed with yad, istawa, etc ,do we know what they mean??

  6. 1) what about those who say Allah is settled( istiqrar) above the throne without contact or touching etc ??

    Answer: To settle means to become still after moving. If this is what they understand from it, then it is kufr.

    2) which category of verses do the sifat of Allah fall under i.e figuative or clear ?

    Answer: It depends. When it says that Aļļaah knows everything, then this is clear, but if it says wajhu Aļļaah, then this is not literally meant, and there are several possible meanings.

    3)do we know the meanings of the sifat of Allah??

    Answer: Sometimes, and to a certain extent, but never the reality of them. For example, I know that Aļļaah knows everything, but I don’t know the reality of His knowledge; I cannot know more than that.

    4) we know the meaning when we say Allah is attributed with hearing etc. but when we say Allah is attributed with yad, istawa, etc ,do we know what they mean?

    We know at least some possibile meanings. See:
    https://sunnianswers.wordpress.com/2008/06/01/wahhabi-contention-how-are-ar-rahmanu-alal-arsh-istawa-and-laysaka-mithlihi-shay-different/

  7. Mo says:

    Many wahabies say that Imam Ahmed believed or took those references literally (attributes of Allah).

    (and believe it or not also said using your brain is bidda)

    i’ve noted what ibn aljawziyy said but do you have more direct references of imam ahmed’s aqida or other authorities on it?

    Salaam.

    • In his explanation of As-Sanuusiyyah Al-Wusţaa, As-Sanuusiyy says: “No one among Ahlu-s-Sunnah said that Aļļaah is in a direction. It was only stated by some deviant innovators, namely the Ĥasħawiyyah and the Karraamiyyah…. The Ĥasħawiyyah have tarnished some Sunni imaams by associating them with their sect. So perhaps they associate it with Aĥmad ibn Ĥanbal, may Aļļaah grant him mercy, as they are followers of his in jurisprudence (fiqh), and make people think that just as they follow him in fiqh, they follow him in beliefs. Far is he from sharing their beliefs, however, because his leadership in beliefs, according to the way of Sunnis, is agreed upon by scholarly consensus, and his debates with innovators, and his affliction by them for the sake of Aļļaah is famous and generally accepted…. Moreover, if we should hypothesize that this deviation happened to him…., then they would have no excuse for following him, because blind imitation in correct beliefs is invalid according to many authenticating scholars, so what would be the case for beliefs that are invalid by unequivocal proofs and scholarly consensus. (P.126)

  8. tru_Qur'an says:

    As salamu ‘alaykum Shaykh,

    Footnote #39 says

    “…Al-Qarafiy and others narrated from Al-Shafi’iy…”

    Can you site Al-Qarafiy’s reference and the authenticity of it insha-Allah?

    Jazak’Allah khairan

  9. sunni says:

    as-salam `alaikum

    “Note, however, that the prophet and at least some of the companions definitely knew the exact meaning of all statements ascribing attributes to Allaah – it is just that some of them became ambiguous to later generations and thus became mutasħaabihaat.)”

    A wahhabi recently commented:

    “In other words, according to them, this knowledge of the Shariah got lost. Sifaat went from being Muhkam to Mutashabih. And the verses of Mutashabihat in Aal `Imran is specific to only a group of people, not the Prophet and some Companions.”

    Could you please give us your comments on his contention.

    JazakAllah khayr

    • Does this person really think that we can be as knowledgeable in this time as the Sahaabah? Information deteriorates over time, this is how the world works. There are many statements in the Qur’aan that the scholars disagree on their meaning, so it is not KNOWN now what the exact meaning is. That does not mean that the meanings were not KNOWN by some people at some point in time.

  10. sunni says:

    A wahhabi asks:

    1. Which Sahabah knew the meanings of those Sifaat which are now Mutashabih?

    2. Which scholars after the Sahabah knew the meanings of those Sifaat which are now Mutashabih?

    3. What point in history did the meanings of the Sifaat get lost? And what was the reason behind that?

    4. Please provide a list of Sifat which the meanings you know (i.e. don’t do Tafweed and Ta’weel in), like for example the Uloohiyyah of Allah.

    So for example – the Seven/Eight Sifaat – are they Muhkam or Mutashabih? How about Rahmah and Maghfirah? How about Istiwaa? A list please.

    5. The list of Sifaat whose meanings are still known and are still Muhkam – what were the meanings passed down to you Ash`aris? Do you have a Sanad Saheeh Muttasil to the Prophet for their meanings?

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