Q&A: hand versus hearing and tafweed

Someone wrote saying: There is a lot I learned from your site. Before asking the question I quote here the next from Al-Aqeedah Al-Tahawiyyah; {Whoever attributed to Aļļaah an attribute that has a meaning among the meanings that apply to humans has committed blasphemy.}

Question 1. Now Allah is Al-Sam’ but the meaning is All-Hearing that He Hears unlike our Hearing right? But we still use the same word ‘Hearing’ unlike our hearing so why not ‘Hand’ just only the word but unlike our hands ? Both meanings apply to humans ? Why don’t we do tafweed of all Allah’s Attributes ?

Answer: The problem with saying “hand unlike our hands” is that it gives the impression that it is a limb, just an unfamiliar one. The word hearing, on the other hand, does not have such a problem. Those who make tafwiid for the meaning of “yad”, do it because the meaning (other than limb-which is not befitting) is not well known, so to specify a meaning that is befitting involves some amount of uncertainty. This is not allowed when one is ascribing something to Allaah, and that is why most scholars did not assign a particular meaning to the word “yad” when referring to Allaah. Some did, however, as they felt sure enough about their interpretation.

Question 2: Why is saying Allah has Hand unlike the creation tashbeeh and why isn’t not when saying Allah Hears unlike the creation ? Salafi’s then say the way you apply that Allah’s attributes are unlike the creation then apply this rule to all attributes like Hand etc.

Answer: It is not necessarily tashbiih to say, “Allah has a Hand unlike the creation.” It is only tashbiih if the one who says that means that it is a limb. This is a translation of the equivalent Arabic expression, which is used by Ahlu-s-Sunnah, and that is why I wouldn’t consider it tashbiih. The mistake is to translate “yad” as “hand” and then say “unlike the creation.” What he should have said was “yad unlike the creation.” The reason is that when one translates “yad” then one has already engaged in ta’wiil,because the range of plausible meanings for “yad” in Arabic is different from those of “hand” in English. It is haraam to say “Allah has a Hand unlike the creation,” because in English the word “hand” in such a context is understood usually as “limb.” This translation is therefore misleading, and therefore sinful. In fact, it sounds almost as if it is saying “a limb unlike the creation,” which would definitely be tashbiih and kufr.

25 Responses to Q&A: hand versus hearing and tafweed

  1. abdulHAQ says:

    As’salam alaikum WRB,

    {{Why is saying Allah has Hand unlike the creation tashbeeh and why isn’t not when saying Allah Hears unlike the creation}}

    Is this confusion due to the translation of the verse into ”Nothing is like unto Him”… (Shura 11) instead of Nothing is like His likeness”

    • AbdulHaqq, Assalaamu^alaykum, This is a wrong translation, because the scholars said that Allaah does not have a mithl, or likeness, and that the aayah is not meant to imply that. In other words, you cannot say “His likeness.”

  2. Abu Abdillah says:

    Assalaamu ‘Alaikoem Shaykh,

    Shaykh can you please explain why isn’t wrong to say Allah ‘Sees’ unlike our ‘Seeing’? Isn’t this going against the saying of Imam Tahawi who said ‘Whoever attributed to Aļļaah an attribute that has a meaning among the meanings that apply to humans has committed blasphemy.’ I know that Hand is a limb but a ‘Seeing’ is a meaning which applies to humans so how comes this is allowed ? I fail to understand insha Allah you can enlighten me on this question, please.

    • Abu Abdillah, Because when we say, “Allaah sees unlike our seeing,” or “Allaah sees everything without an instrument or sequence,” then we do not imply a need for specification for the seeing itself, and when there is no specification implied, then there is no beginning implied or meaning of being created. This is unlike a limb, such as a hand, because is has a physical specification, and therefore needs to be specified by other than itself (how it is to be, because a limb has a shape.) That is why saying “limb not like the limbs of creation,” is still kufr, because a limb needs specification, since it is a shape. Please see today’s post.

  3. Bro says:

    As sallamu alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu

    Dear Sheikh,
    Isn’t the concept and act of hearing also physical? You hear because of vibrations picked up by the auditory system in your ears, therefore hearing has a meaning.

    Can you please explain hearing as I have described above in comparison then to your explanation of the rejection of “Yad” as Hand.

    If “Yad” cannot mean “Hand, unlike anything in creation” because “Hand” still has a meaning then surely as the original questioner asked “Hearing” too has a physical meaning.

    Jazak Allah Khair.

    Wa alaikum as sallam

  4. Eudaemonion says:

    I’m a bit confused. Doesn’t the faculty of hearing imply the necessity of a specialised sensory organ, just as a hand implies a limb?

    • Eudaemonion,
      No, in fact it must be the case that it is not, because a sensory organ needs a creator to specify how it is to be, and Allaah’s hearing is not created. Note that the word “hand” does not IMPLY a limb, it IS a limb. Hearing, however, is not a limb, the ear is a limb, and the ear is a limb that implies hearing in created things, because that is the rule that Allaah has willed for His creation, not because it is necessarily so in the minds eye, and could not have been any other way. Please see today’s post for more on this.

  5. Sam Kanj says:

    Someone asked: Question 1. Now Allah is Al-Sam’ but the meaning is All-Hearing that He Hears unlike our Hearing right? But we still use the same word ‘Hearing’ unlike our hearing so why not ‘Hand’ just only the word but unlike our hands ? Both meanings apply to humans ? Why don’t we do tafweed of all Allah’s Attributes ?

    Please consider that hearing and seeing are not organs. We are not debating the words ears and eyes. Only when mentioning created things, seeing is an attribute of eyes, and hearing is an attribute of ears. When mentioning Allah’s Hearing and Seeing, we know without a doubt that Allah is not in need of eyes to see and ears to hear, and He also does not need a physical HAND to control the world. The word Yad in the Arabic language denotes power, although in the English lauguage it does not. So the same belief that applies to Allah’s seeing and hearing being Perfect without the need of organs, we also believe all His other perfect attributes are NOT in need of organs. To need is a weakness and Allah definitely isn’t weak. Allah said in the Holy Qur’an, chapter 42: verse 11
    لَيْسَ كَمِثْلِهِ شَىْ ءٌ وَهُوَ السَّمِيعُ الْبَصِيرُ. سورة : الشّورى
    Means: [Absolutely nothing is like Allah in any way whatsoever and He is attributed with hearing and sight.] Allah cleared Himself of resembling the creation, before the part He mentions that He is attributed with hearing and sight. So it should be known that His hearing and sight are Prefect and are not like our hearing and sight in any way whatsoever. Even though the wording is the same the meaning is different, because Allah does not resemble the creation. To clarify another important point, the words ‘He’, ‘His’ and ‘Him’ when used in reference to Allah must not be understood to refer to gender. Again, the wording is the same, however, the meaning is different. God created males and females, although He is not similar to any of the creations.

    It does not apply to all words when using a particular word to describe Allah and explaining the word’s differences in meaning between the Creator and the creations, because many words are not valid to describe Allah with. Some Arabic words from the Quran or Hadith contain multiple meanings, and within these meanings you can find other than physical meanings. However, when that same Arabic word is translated to English, in English it may only carry a physical meaning. So we do not use that English word to describe Allah with because this will give a blasphemous meaning. We do not say Allah moves in a way that befits Him and this movement is different to the way we move. This is clear kufur because movement no matter how you try to describe or disguise it’s meaning, it is always physical. Movement and stillness cannot be attributed to Allah as they only befit bodies that are created and exist in a place. So we DO NOT use a word that only carries a physical meaning and then apply that word to Allah, but try to hide this contradiction by saying things like, ‘In a way that befits Him’, or ‘different to ours’. No matter how you look at it, the contradiction is visible.

  6. Sam, assalaamuˆalaykum, I much prefer the word “ascribe” or “describe” when speaking of Allaah’s attributes.

  7. Sam Kanj says:

    Allah’s hearing and seeing are without a ‘How’. Only the attributes of the creations are subject to a how. We cannot ask how Allah sees or hears, because His attributes are without a how, without a beginning and cannot be described. Whatever you imagine in your mind, Allah is NOT it.

    Surely Allah sees all things, differently to the way see. His seeing is without a limit. The way we see is with an eye, and the eye is in need of light in order to see, and we cannot see beyond obstructions.

  8. Kitab says:

    As salamu ‘alaykum Sheikh,

    You said basically that hand has to mean a limb, but what about the argument when some say ‘well what about describing a clock as having hands, these hands are not limbs.’

    Is the weakness of the argument still implying that the hands of the clock are still PARTS?

    Jazak’Allah khair

  9. faqir says:

    interestingly according to salafis like sh Muhammad Khalil al-Harras, Allah sees with eyes:

    روى أبو داود في ((سننه)) عن أبي هريرة رضي الله عنه أن النبي  قرأ هذه الآية:  إِنَّ اللَّهَ كَانَ سَمِيعًا بَصِيرًا  ( )، فوضع إبهامه على أذنه، والتي تليها على عينيه( ).
    ومعنى الحديث أنه سبحانه يسمع بسمع، ويرى بعين، فهو حجة على بعض الأشاعرة( ) الذين يجعلون سمعه علمه بالمسموعات، وبصره علمه بالمبصرات، وهو تفسير خاطئ؛

    wonder which text that is derived from?!?

    • From Abuu Daawuud and others. It is an ĥadiitħ mentioning that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) put his thumb on his ear and his index finger on his eye when reading what means, “verily Allaah is All-Hearing All-Seeing”. This is a singular narration of course, so it is not for establishing beliefs, and it is an act, not a saying, so it has no automatic general application. Moreover, he did not teach us why he did that, so any claim in this regard is no more than an opinion. Al-Harass thinks it means that Allaah has an eye to see with, because he believes Allaah is like a human being. Ibn Ĥibbaan said it was to bring attention to the fact that Allaah sees without an eye, because He does not resemble anything. Al-Bayhaqiyy and Abu Daawuud said it means that it was to point to the fact that these are attributes other than knowledge, in refutation of the Jahmiyyah, who denied these attributes altogether. Without explicit explanation from the most eloquent human that ever lived, these remain guesses. If he wanted to teach any of those thinks he is more than capable of doing so without resorting to hand gestures. Even Abu Hurayrah, who made the observation, did not even attempt explaining it. Maybe it was for none of these reasons. Maybe there is some special secret in making this gesture. One thing is for sure: it was not intended to affirm bodyparts to Allaah, unlike what this silly Al-Harass thinks, because we already know from the Qur’aan that Aļļaah does not resemble His creation, so how could the Prophet have meant “like this ear,” or “he has an ear” or the like by his pointing? Even though the wahabis think of Aļļaah as a body, they still say about Aļļaah’s attributes “we do not know how.” So this is in complete contradiction to this saying of theirs.

  10. SonofAdam says:

    As salamu ‘alaykum,

    What about what Imam Dhahabi’s argument, especially his point in the second paragraph regarding if ‘Yad’ in the definition MUST be a ‘limb’ then ‘hearing’ itself only exist in bodies and therefore MUST be an accident:

    “Why do you say: ‘A hand in reality is this bodily limb’? Rather, a ‘hand’ is homonym, and it is in accordance with, and of the same category of what it is attributed to. Therefore, if the thing described therewith is an animal then the hand would be a bodily limb. If it were was statue made of brass and stone, the hand would also be of brass and stone. If it were an image drawn on the wall, the hand would be a drawing. If it were that of which neither there is a like, nor it is a body, the hand would also be that of which neither there is a like, nor it is a body”

    He also says:

    “If it is said: ‘In its conventional usage, a hand only refers to the limb that we all know of’ We would say in reply: Similarly, in conventional usage, knowledge, hearing and seeing are ONLY ACCIDENTS that subsist in BODIES. Where, then, is the DIFFERENCE?” (no pun intended)

    Ithbat al-Yad lilLahi subhanah p. 42-44 by al-Imam al-Dhahabi.

  11. my question is:
    Isn’t it the same in essence?

    • Allaah’s hearing is not an instrument with a “how”, it is a necessary and eternal attribute that is not it time or space. That being said, the wahabis do believe that Allaah is a body, as has been made very clear in many articles. They also believe He changes and is in time. From this viewpoint I see no need to spend time on how they understand “hand”. See my post above for more detail.

  12. Taalib says:

    How do you answer the question below Shaykh:
    Hearing is the ability to perceive sound by detecting vibrations, changes in the pressure of the surrounding medium through time, through an organ such as the ear (wikipedia).

    If we say Allah’s hearing is not in time or space; isn’t detecting vibrations, changes in the pressure through time all physical aspects and within time and space? Is it logical that the vibrations through my voice reach Him when I wasn’t existent? If He perceives my voice without detecting vibrations and pressure etc. then this is more like comprehension rather than hearing. Because sound is nothing but vibrations and pressure.

    • What we are accountable for believing is that Allaah has an eternal attribute referred to as samˆ (or hearing in English) and that He hears everything without this attribute being like our hearing. We know this because he told us this in the Qur’aan. We are not able to know the reality of this hearing, as is true of all of Allaah’s attribute. However, we know that since it is eternal, it is not something that goes through time and is therefore not dependent on the reaching of vibrations.

      Note that not all hearing involves vibration, e.g. I hear my inner voice when thinking and there is no vibration or pressure involved. I.e. the concept of hearing is not restricted to vibration and pressure.

  13. Abul Karam al-Hasni says:

    Question: is it kufr if one says that Allah is sitting on his throne bi la mithl wa bi la mithal on yawm al-qiyama?

  14. sam says:

    us says
    ;Shaykh Abu Adam says:

    March 1, 2009 at 7:57 am

    Sam, assalaamuˆalaykum, I much prefer the word “ascribe” or “describe” when speaking of Allaah’s attributes.

    what u mean pls ? u mean it’s ok to use the word “ascribe” or “describe” when speaking of Allaah’s attributes??

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