Q&A about attributes and ambiguities

November 26, 2008

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 figurative 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. The reason why it is not clear, is that the literal meaning of wajh is “face,” and a face needs a creator to specify its form. Since Aļļaah is not created, He does not have a face. The meaning of wajh then, must be some other meaning than face. Some of the scholars chose to interpret the word wajh, while others preferred to remain silents about the meaning.

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

Answer: To a certain extent, but never the complete reality. For example, I know that Aļļaah knows everything, but I don’t know the reality of His knowledge; I cannot know more than that. I do know, however, that it does not involve a brain or another place or container or instrument. I also know that it does not change or develop, and that it is flawless and unlimited.

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?

Answer: We know they are not literally meant and we know some possible meanings according to the Arabic language, but the reason why many scholars preferred to keep silent about their interpretation, is that there is more than one possible meaning and they were not sure which one is meant. They preferred therefore to stay silent in order to avoid speaking about Aļļaah’s attributes based on what they could not be certain to be correct. This is why you see, on the other hand, some interpret with confidence what others consider to be ambiguous. What is ambiguous to some, is not ambiguous to others. Moreover, some engaged in specifying an interpretation in their teaching in order to prevent people from thinking of the literal meaning. See also this article, and this one.


Q&A: Mushirks on a sinking ship

November 25, 2008
On Wed, Jul 23, 2008 at 9:33 AM, someone wrote:
Muhammed ibn Abdul Wahab in his book ”the three basic principles and their proofs” says at the end of the book as a fourth rule : The associationists -mushriks- of now days are worse and hence more guilty than those of the ancient times. For the ancient ones used to commit shirk in prosperity and return to genuine faith in adversity, whereas …………….

Then he quotes ayah 65 of surah ankabut :
” When they board the ship ,they invoke Allah making their faith pure for Him only; then when He brings them safe to land ,they start committing shirk. ”

My question is :
how does it become pure or genuine faith when someone calls Allah only when having difficulty while travelling on a ship?
I.e If a mushrik who beliefs in the multiplicity of Allah and worships others beside Allah when trapped in a ship calls Allah; how does the faith become pure? Isn’t pure faith to believe that there is no God but Allah rather then just calling only Allah?

Is the translation of the ayah correct? If not ,what is the actual translation of the ayah ?

Aţ-Ţabariyy says about the meaning: When they were afflicted by this affliction, they purified their belief in the oneness of Aļļaah, and made their obedience only for His sake, and submitted their worship to Him alone, and did not call their deities or idols.
تفسير الطبري – يقول تعالى ذكره: فإذا ركب هؤلاء المشركون السفينة في البحر، فخافوا الغرق والهلاك فيه( دَعَوُا اللَّهَ مُخْلِصِينَ لَهُ الدِّينَ ) يقول: أخلصوا لله عند الشدّة التي نزلت بهم التوحيد، وأفردوا له الطاعة، وأذعنوا له بالعبودة، ولم يستغيثوا بآلهتهم وأندادهم،
Ibn Al-Jawziyy narrated that Muqaatil said: “diin here (what was translated as “faith” above) means tawĥiid, i.e. they would not call those they claimed to be Aļļaah’s partners.
زاد المسير – قوله تعالى : { فاذا رَكِبُوا في الفُلْك } يعني المشركين { دَعَوُا اللّهَ مُخْلِصِين له الدِّين } أي : أفردوه بالدُّعاء . قال مقاتل : والدِّين بمعنى التوحيد؛ والمعنى أنهم لا يَدْعُون مَنْ يَدْعُونه شريكاً له { فلمَّا نَجَّاهم } أي : خلَّصهم من أهوال البحر ، وأَفْضَوا { إِلى البَرِّ إِذا هم يُشْرِكون } في البَرّ ، وهذا إِخبار عن عنادهم .
An-Nasafiyy said it means: They took the appearance of a believer that takes his religion purely for Aļļaah’s sake, and only make (worshipful) remembrance of Him and do not worship anyone else (or call another deity).
تفسير النسفي – { فَإِذَا رَكِبُواْ فِى الفلك } هو متصل بمحذوف دل عليه ما وصفهم به وشرح من أمرهم معناه : هم على ما وصفوا به من الشرك والعناد فإذا ركبوا في الفلك { دَعَوُاْ الله مُخْلِصِينَ لَهُ الدين } كائنين في صورة من يخلص الدين لله من المؤمنين حيث لا يذكرون إلا الله ولا يدعون معه إلاهاً آخر
Al-Bagħawiyy said it means: They abandoned their idols.
تفسير البغوي – قوله تعالى: { فَإِذَا رَكِبُوا فِي الْفُلْكِ } وخافوا الغرق، { دَعَوُا اللَّهَ مُخْلِصِينَ لَهُ الدِّينَ } وتركوا الأصنام
So faith, in the sense of real belief in the heart is not necessarily the meaning here. In fact, it can mean worship or obedience, or that they took the appearance of montheists, as An-Nasafiyy stated.

As always, the word duˆaa here is understood as meaning worship or calling in worship. It is not merely calling, or even calling for help. If someone was on a ship about to sink and called someone to help him with a sail he would not have committed shirk, because this call is not worship. It is not worship because he does not consider the called to be deserving of worship, or having the real and actual power to influence events. This is what Muĥammad ibn ˆAbdulWahhaab and his ilk could not understand.

Q&A: the ranks of the prophets

November 24, 2008

On Sat, Sep 13, 2008 at 4:55 AM, someone wrote:

hi, i would like to ask which prophet allah loves the most or has high status and why? and on Judgment Day do all prophet get the same rewards?

No, there is differences between the prophets in rank and reward, but all of them have very high rank, higher than any other beings. This is according to Aļļaah’s decree, He gives some people more than others. The highest ranking prophet is Muĥammad followed by Ibrahiim, Moses, Jesus and Noah.

Note that Aļļaah is not something that has emotions or is affected by what anybody does. He does not need His creation, even the prophets. The ranks are purely a grace from Him to them. In this regard, Al-Bukħaariy narrated that the Messenger of Aļļaah said: “Your deeds will not put you in Paradise.” They asked: “Not even for you, O Messenger of Aļļaah?” He answered: “No, not even for me, except that Aļļaah will cover me with grace and mercy.” (Şaĥiiĥ Al-Bukħaariy No 5349, 5/2147; ˆUmdatu-l-Qaariy 21/227)

Q&A about the words “hand” and “face.”

November 23, 2008
On Wed, Jul 16, 2008 at 11:27 AM, a brother wrote:

Dear Shaykh,

As salaam o alaikum wa rahmatullah,

I read the following fatwa of an Indian Hanafi scholar. At the end of the fatwa the scholar takes the position of tafwid, consigning the meaning of “yad” etc to whatever Allah meant by it. He also states that tawil is valid to assign a meaning suitable to the word. But in the beginning he sort of corroborates the Salafi aqida saying as well. Could you please comment if the fatwa is correct, or if there are mistakes with it, what the mistakes are?

Is the following statement correct?
The belief of the Ahle-Sunnat is this that Allaah Ta`ala does have a Hand but it is unlike the hand of the creation. And Allaah Ta`ala has a Face, which is unlike the face of man or any other creation. These are unique to Allaah Ta`ala alone and their condition and comprehension are beyond the understanding of man. Only Allaah Ta`ala alone knows what these actually are.

Abu Adam’s comment:

This is not very precise. First of all, he translates “yad” as “hand”, and this is very misleading. Who said that the meaning of “yad”, when ascribed to Aļļaah is has the meaning of “hand” in English? What he should have said was “Aļļaah has a yad unlike the yad of the creation.” That would have been more careful. When he translates “yad” as “hand” then he has restricted the possible Arabic meanings of “yad” to the possible meanings of “hand” in English. In other words, he has already engaged in ta’weel, even though he seems to be attempting tafweeđ. Not only that, he has also translated an Arabic word that is ambiguous in meaning when ascribed to Aļļaah into another language. This is not allowed if the translation result is potentially misleading, as it clearly is in this case. The scholars agreed that words used to ascribe attributes to Aļļaah must be verbatim from scripture texts; either the Qur’aan or highly authentic ĥadiitħs. If they are not, such as when translating, then the words used must connotate glorification and not be misleading at all. These conditions are not met here.

Moreover, many sunni scholars said that “yad” refers to Aļļaah’s attribute of Power.

As for wajh, which he has a again translated into a misleading word, namely face, is not said to be an attribute by all sunnis. Many said that wajh means the deeds that are done for Aļļaah’s sake. Other’s said that it refers to Aļļaah Himself, and not an attribute of His. The translation of wajh as face is even worse than the translation of “yad” as “hand”. “Face” has no meaning in English I can think of that befits Aļļaah, whereas “hand” sometimes means “power” or “control” such as in “the decision is not in my hands.”

Add to all this that non-literal meanings of words are interpreted according to context. I.e. the linguistic tool for knowing whether a literal or figurative meaning is meant is to look at the context. So if I say “the guy is a lion,” you know I am speaking figuratively, because a “guy” is a human being, and thus the meaning of “lion” here is something like “fierce” or “brave.” On the other hand, if I said “lions are a type of cat,” you know I am speaking literally. So when one translates “yad” as “hand” then one has strongly implied that the literal meaning of “yad” is meant, by the contextual clue of this translation, and this adds to the danger of being misleading.

Answer (fatwa):
Yes, it is right. The Ahlus Sunnah wal-Jamaah scholars of Hadith and Ulama hold the same belief about the Hands etc. It implies that Allah does have Hands, Face etc but not like His creatures, He is above all these similarities. Allah says:
(لیس کمثلہ شئ (سورة الشوری، ۱۱
There is nothing whatever like unto him. (42/11)
Abu Adam’s comment:

This is very misleading, as I have explained immediately above. I think most people will think this to mean different shape, color, etc, whereas a Muslim must believe that these are words in Arabic (yad, wajh, etc.) that when refer to an attribute of Aļļaah are not limbs, instruments, physical or limited in any sense. They are attributes without modality, time or place.

But, what these words, like Hands and Face, mean? Allah knows best, we only believe in whatever Allah has meant by these words. The scholars of Kalam (Asharia and Maturidiah) are of the opinion that the exact meaning of these words is known only by Allah, but if anyone takes a meaning that is suitable for the high position of Allah (Suhanahu Wa-taala) then it may be allowed e.g. Hand means power and Face means He himself.

Abu Adam’s comment:

He should not have translated yad and wajh as hands and face, for the reasons mentioned earlier.

As-Sanuusiyy in his book ˆUmdatu ‘Ahli-t-Tawfiiq says, “and it is impossible that Aļļaah should lie,

November 4, 2008

As-Sanuusiyy in his book ˆUmdatu ‘Ahli-t-Tawfiiq says, “and it is impossible that Aļļaah should lie, since His Speech agrees with His Knowledge…. (P.245).” In explaining why it is impossible that Aļļaah could lie he says, “Third, it has been established that Aļļaah is attributed with complete perfection, and truthfulness is an attribute of complete perfection which’s opposite is a flaw, and it is impossible that Aļļaah should be attributed with a flaw, so He must be truthful.(P. 248))”

So As-Sanuusiyy says that lying is impossible for Aļļaah in the mind’s eye, unlike some people claim. For the record, As-Sanuusiyy mentions in the explanation of Aş-Şugħraa, “It is impossible that Aļļaah could lie, because His Speech/Kalaam must agree with His Knowledge, and speech in agreement with knowledge cannot be but truthful (Sħarĥu ‘Ummu-l-Baraahiin, 280)⁠.”

See also:
Refuting the Accusation that Asharis Consider it Rationally Possible for Allah to Lie
Someone asked: The idea that it is not absolutely impossible for Aļļaah to lie is mentioned in some books attributed to famous scholars. Can we seriously consider calling such illustrious `ulema who were masters of `aqida to be kufar and those who deny their kufr themselves kufar?

ˆUmdatu ‘Ahli-t-Tawfiiq. As-Sanuusiyy, Muĥammad ibn Yuusuf. Egypt: Jariidatu-l-Islaam, 1316. <http://ia311311.us.archive.org/1/items/SanousiaKoubra/SonossiyaKoubra.pdf&gt;.

Ĥaasħiyatu-d-Dusuuqiyy ˆalaa Ummi-l-Baraahiin wa Sħarĥuhaa. —. Beirut, Lebanon: Al-Maktabah Al-ˆAşriyyah, 1426.