The difference between wahabi creed and Islaam III: what the scholars said about their belief

September 29, 2010

An important reply has been posted at this link regarding takfiir of anthropomorphists.

Refuting Yaser Qadi’s opposition to proving Allaah’s existence

August 2, 2009

Islam is a great religion, it does not need to attack reason or logic to hold. It has nothing to hide. It is not based on blind imitation, or blind acceptance. The argument for its correctness agrees with reason from beginning to end, as has been shown in the article “Foundations of the Religion“. There is no argument based on valid premises and sound structure that can put a dent in it. This is what we Sunnis believe, and any religion that does not meet this criteria is not the religion of Aļļaah.

Yaser Qadi is out to show otherwise in his The Theological Implications of the Story of Ibrahim & the Stars (Ibn Taymiyyah vs. the Mutakallimun). He now opposes the proof of the Creator’s existence, not by showing that the premises do not hold or that the argument is false, but by saying in essence: “it is not mentioned in the Qur’aan, is complicated, was not used by the companions and there is no need, because everybody knows by the fiţrah.” Thus he implies that it is prohibited. Of course, it is all based on the talk of arch-anthropomorphist, Ibn Taymiyyah.

To continue reading you may download the article Rational Quranic Islam vs Wahabism in PDF formats. The table of contents is:

Introduction…. p. 3
Circular reasoning is Quranic?!…. p. 3
Different times and different people need different types of proofs…. p. 4
The Imam ˆAbdulQaahir on the Sunni scholars of the science of belief…. p. 5
Kalam scholars used terminology like those of the Aristotelians to show them wrong…. p. 10
The principles of the proofs for the creators existence…. p. 10
About the so called proof of the existence of God through the proof of the createdness of “accidents”…. p. 11
The proof of the creators existence is in compliance with the Qur’aan…. p. 12
Implications of the proof of Allaah’s existence for denying Allaah’s resemblance to creation…. p. 12
A more detailed way of showing that bodies must be created for one to prove that the world is created…. p. 14
Ibn Taymiyyah’ arguments against the proof stating that bodies must have a creator…. p. 15
The anthropomorphist dilemma; the motivation of Ibn Taymiyyah for attacking the proof of Allaah’s existence based on the fact that the world consists of bodies and attributes…. p. 19
Conclusion….   p. 19

Bodies have limits but not Allaah

January 18, 2009

Wahabi contention: “But whatever has no limit is not separate and distinct from the creation and cannot be above the world because all of this is necessitated by the meaning of al-hadd [i.e. limit]”

Comment: Note that they mean by this “whatever has no [physical] limit is not [physically] separate and distinct from the creation and cannot be [physically] above the world.” This statement is based on drawing analogy between creation and the Creator. It assumes that Aļļaah is a body (something with a size), and must therefore, as they say, have a physical boundary. This assumption is made, because they think of Aļļaah in terms of what is true for creation.

The Sunni belief on the one who says Allaah has a limit is that He is a kaafir

Just to remind ourselves of the Sunni belief in this matter, Aţ-Ţaĥaawiyy stated {in brackets}: {This is a detailed remembrance of the belief of the People of the Sunnah and following {the Jamaaˆah}. Later he stated, as part of this remembrance,{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 in the same remembrance: {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. In other words, the Sunni belief is that attributing a limit to Aļļaah makes one a non-Muslim.

A brief synopsis of the fallacy contained in the argument for a limit

The concepts of physical separation and connection relate to bodies, not to Aļļaah. If they said a body cannot be separate and extinct from another body unless it has a limit, then this is true. It is not true, however, that Aļļaah is a body, so it is not true that He must have a limit. Therefore, it is also not true that Aļļaah is either physically outside or inside the world. This is a fallacy called “false dichotomy,” which is when someone argues and gives you a choice between two things, none of which are true, like if someone said, “the stone is either blind or seeing, which is it?” The problem with this is that a stone is neither said to be blind nor seeing. That is, you neither say, “the stone is blind” nor “the stone is seeing.” So when they say, “Aļļaah is either inside or outside, which is it?” they are using a false dichotomy to trick you into thinking that there is no other alternative. This is not correct, because the two choices a person has about something existent is first, “Is it in a place or not?” If the answer to that choice is “in a place,” then one may ask, “it is inside or outside area so and so?” If the answer is, “not in a place,” however, then the question, “is it inside or outside area so and so?” is pure nonsense. To illustrate in terms of the example of the stone, there was another question before “is the stone seeing or blind?” which was, “does the stone have sight?” Since the answer is “no,” it makes not sense to ask, “is it seeing or blind?”

The stated wahabi contention that “what is not limited cannot be above,” assumes that Aļļaah’s aboveness is physical, but no Muslim says that He is. Muslims believe that Aļļaah is above us in status and power, not in physical location. Being physically above something else can only be for something physical, and there is no greatness in being physically above something anyway. If there was, then Tibet would be better than Makkah. By saying that Aļļaah’s aboveness is one of status and power, we have chosen the most beautiful meaning of “aboveness” and we have avoided attributing a limit to the Creator.

A detailed explanation of why the wahabi argument is invalid

To recap, the wahabi argument in formal terms is that they say:

1) Everything that exists is in a place.

2) Everything that occupies space has a limit.

3) Allaah exists.

4) Therefore (they say) Allaah has a limit, and claiming otherwise is sophistry

While we accept premises 2) and 3), we do not accept premise 1). The reason why we do not accept premise 1), namely that everything that exists is in a place, is:

First, there is no evidence that could be claimed for premise 1) except observation of what we have perceived with our senses in our daily lives. Essentially what they are saying is that “everything I have perceived in my life is physical, therefore everything that exists is physical.” This is clearly not a logical argument, but it is the core of their argument. The underlying trick in this claim is that our imagination is limited to what our five senses have experienced in this life. Our minds record these experiences, and in our minds we are able to manipulate these recordings in different ways as concepts. Our ability to conceptualize is limited to these recordings, and any fact that does not agree with these recordings is difficult to deal with in our minds, and will even often be rejected based on it. It is this limit of our minds that the devil uses to trick people into anthropomorphist belief. He makes them think that what one cannot imagine cannot exist, and makes them ignore the fact that our imagination is based on a limited set of sensory experiences, and it does not cover all that exists in creation, let alone what could have existed, and what must exist.

Second, since there is no actual proof of premise 1) being valid by logic alone, we take guidance from the Quranic fact that Aļļaah does not resemble His creation,

لَيْسَ كَمِثْلِهِ شَيْءٌ وَهُوَ السَّمِيعُ الْبَصِيرُ

Meaning: “Absolutely nothing resembles Him, and He is All-Hearing, All-Seeing.” (Al-Sħuuraa, 11) Accordingly, what is necessarily true regarding creation’s existence is not true of His. (For a more complete discussion of the meaning of this aayah, you should read this very important article: Wahhabi Contention: How are “Ar Rahmanu `alal `arsh istawa” and “Laysaka mithlihi shay`” different?)

In light of this we observe that all creation around us are things that occupy space (dead matter and live beings) and attributes of those things that occupy space (like color or love). This is the kind of existence that all creation as we know it has. Based on this, we conclude that Aļļaah is not in a place nor is He an attribute of something in a place, otherwise His existence would be of created kind, and that is contrary to the aayah.

We also take guidance from the Quranic fact that Aļļaah is attributed with absolute pre-existence to everything else:

هُوَ الأَوَّلُ

Meaning: “He is the one that is attributed with absolute precedence.” (Al-Ĥadiid, 03).” We understand from this that He existed before everything else, and that He was not preceded by non-existence or the existence of something else. He existed, and there was nothing with Him and nothing prior to Him. Al-Bukħaariy narrated that the Prophet Muĥammad said:

كان الله ولم يَكُنْ شَيْءٌ غَيْرُهُ

“Aļļaah existed and there was nothing else” (Bukħaariy No. 3019) Aļļaah’s existence then, does not resemble the existence of created things. It is a beginning-less and necessary existence, and is not affected by anything.

This aayah and hadiith are another base then, and we say that while it is true that physical things are either inside or outside something, it is not true of Aļļaah, because He is the creator of all places, all insides and all outsides, as He existed before them.

Consequently, the correct belief is that Aļļaah created all places, and He existed before everything else, including place and time. Since He existed before them, it must be true that He existed without them. In other words, as the scholars say, “Aļļaah existed, and there was no place, and He is now as He was eternally – without a place.”

We also take guidance from other aayahs in the Quran to show that the anthropomorphist’s premise, “everything that exists is in a place,” is false, and that sound reason does not dictate what they claim. One way we can do this is by showing that not everything that exists must be limited, as follows:

First, note that whatever has a physical limit is a creation, because a limit must be specified in terms of size and shape etc. That is, it requires a Creator to exist. If one denies this, then one is no longer able to prove that physical limits require a Creator, such as the human body, or the celestial bodies. That is, the shape of the camel, or the skies would no longer be proofs for Aļļaah’s existence and Power, and this is in contradiction with the Quranic statements, such as:

إِنَّ فِي خَلْقِ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ وَاخْتِلَافِ اللَّيْلِ وَالنَّهَارِ لَآَيَاتٍ لِأُولِي الْأَلْبَابِ

Meaning: “Verily in the creation of the Skies and the Earth, and the differences of night and day there are signs for those who have perceptive minds.” (Aal ˆImraan, 190)

أَفَلاَ يَنظُرُونَ إِلَى الإِبْلِ كَيْفَ خُلِقَتْ

Meaning: “What, do they not consider how the camel was created?” (Al-Għasħiyah, 17)

Can anyone ponder these aayahs without pondering the physical boundaries of the skies, earth and camel? Of course not, without boundaries, there is no camel and there is no sky and no earth, because this is the reality of their existence. It is the limits of bodies that make us sure that they are created and enable us to ponder upon them as signs of Aļļaah. In fact, the aayahs are requesting us to ponder the boundaries of the skies, the earth and the camel. If someone claims that Aļļaah has a physical limit, then they are saying that physical limits do not necessarily need a creator, and have thereby invalidated these Quranic proofs.

This is true because a physical limit is a physical limit, and once you claim that one limit does not need a creator, then you cannot prove that another limit necessarily needs a creator. Why? Because a physical limit is conceptually just a connection of dots forming a line or surface. Each dot is connected to the next at one of its sides. The choice of placement of a connected dot to another is for any available space at any angle and from any angle. That’s it. The placement of connected dots form limits, and since the way the dots are placed next to each other needs specification in terms of ‘where,’ all limits need to be specified. This means they need a creator and cannot be eternal, because their existence depends on prior specification. So if someone claims that one such limit does not require a creator, then He can no longer logically prove that another limit does need a creator. This means that he can no longer logically prove that shapes need someone to give them a form. To be able to do that, rather, he must hold on to the premise that all limits need a creator. Since Aļļaah is neither specified, nor created, and is definitely eternal, it must be true that Aļļaah exists without limits and therefore without being in a place.

More simply put: anything that has a limit i.e. boundary has a shape because the limit has to have some shape. Anything that has a certain shape could have had any other shape, because any shape isn’t of higher priority than any other shape, so having a certain shape means that there must be someone who specified it and chose it among all other possibilities.

Similarly, the very state of being in a place needs a specifier. The proof that the state of being in a place needs to be specified, is that once something is in a place, it is conceivable that it could have been in another place, just like what was shown true above regarding connecting dots in a limit. Consequently, once we see something is in a place, we ask how it got there. We ask this, because we know that once something is in a place, then something prior to it has put it there. That is, something prior to it specified its place. So the concepts of being physically inside or outside cannot apply to Aļļaah, because if they did, it would necessitate Him being specified, or influenced or changed. Rather, we must believe that Aļļaah is only attributed with attributes that are eternal, and therefore do not necessitate specification. See also what Al-Qurţubiyy said in this regard at this link.

In conclusion, the first premise of the wahabis is not only unverifiable, but definitely wrong.

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: Figures of Speech

August 5, 2008

Someone asked, after reading “The Foundations of the Religion“:

Dear Shaikh, The proof was conclusive and it has surely increased my iman but how does one explain statements like Allah descends to the lowest heaven at night time and that on the Day of Reckoning He along with the angels would arrive on the earth. They apparently don’t fit with the belief that Allah is where he has always been and does not move as He is independent of space.

Answer: First of all, you must not say that He is where He has always been, say instead, “He is as He has always been.” Second, I am not aware of any scripture that states, as you say, “Allah will arrive on Earth.” Perhaps you are referring to the Quranic “wa jaa’a Rabbuka”. Abul Faraj Ibn Al-Jawziyy, a famous Hanbali of the 6th century, said about this, and other scripture texts that apparently, but not actually, ascribe physical attributes to Allah:

<<…. 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 Allah, and what is impossible to be and attribute of His. Among the things that it is impossible that Allah 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 Allah. The Imam Ahmad said “wa jaa’ Rabbuka” means: “His orders came”. (If literally translated it would state: wa (and) jaa’ (He came) Rabbuka (your Lord).(Kashf Al Mushkil 3/3791)>>

As for the nuzul, translated by some as “descending,” mentioned for the last third of the night, the scholars that assigned a meaning said that it refers to the angel of Allah that comes to the Sky at that time to announce the acceptability of supplications at that time. I.e. it means “the Angel of Allah descends.” Others said that it is a figure of speech to emphasize the acceptability of supplications at that time. Even in English you could say something like “Bush came to Iraq,” even if it was only his army that came, so that the actual meaning is “Bush’s army came to Iraq.”

None of what you mentioned is problematic in Arabic. It is very confusing, however, when these scriptures are translated to English literally, because these translations would not work well, or work at all, as figures of speech in English. Such translations makes the claim of Sunnis that these aren’t literally meant seem weak, when it is actually not.

Take for example the statement in the Qur’aan: “وَيَبْقَى وَجْهُ رَبِّك” (Ar-Rahman). Many have translated this, stating something like: “But the Face of your Lord will remain.” Now, in English this sounds like they are saying that Allah has an actual face. It will also sound extremely weird, from a English linguistic viewpoint, to claim that “face” here means “self”, because their English phrase “the Face of your Lord” simply cannot mean “the self of your Lord” in English. It also could not mean in English “what is done for the sake of your Lord.” In Arabic, however, both “the self of your Lord (i.e. He Himself)” and “what is done for the sake of your Lord” are plausible understandings of “وَيَبْقَى وَجْهُ رَبِّكَ”, which they translated as “But the Face of your Lord will remain.”

In fact, I cannot think of any acceptable figurative meaning of their English “the Face of your Lord.” The reason is that “face” simply does not have many meanings beyond, well, “face” in English. The word “wajh” in Arabic, however, has very many meanings, such as face, leader, something acceptable, surface, status, intention, direction, way, etc., etc. It is safe to say that such translations, even when done by people who don’t believe in the literal meaning, cause a great deal of confusion. It is as if one is saying, “face here does not mean face!”

Another issue is that even in Arabic, when several such scriptures are mentioned together, and not in the context that they were revealed, then it is also misleading. As an example in English, let us say that you came and asked a favour from me, like convincing the government not to make you pay taxes, and I replied, “this matter is not in my hands.” If I answered you like this, you would understand me as saying, “I have no influence,” and the thought of actual “hands” would not even enter your mind. However, if you heard me say, “this matter is not in my hands. It is in the hands of the government, but my hands are tied,” in this case you might start thinking of actual “hands,” even though these were 3 figures of speech put together, and the meanings have nothing to do with actual hands. The reason why the concept of a physical hand here starts to creep into your mind is that people do not usually use several figures of speech together. The basic principle of communication is to say things literally, and figures of speech are exceptions that make language more beautiful. Too much of it, however, quickly becomes awkward.

Those who believe Allah to be physical use this method, putting several figurative scriptures together, and out of context, to make people think of limbs, movement, sitting and the like. This is just like when I made you think of hands when I said “this matter is not in my hands, It is in the hands of the government, but my hands are tied,” even though actual hands have nothing to do with what I said.

The figures of speech in Arabic that some deviants interpret literally to mean that Allah is physical are not problematic to someone who knows Allah, and knows Arabic. Only someone who does not know Allah, and is ignorant in Arabic will get confused and think of physical attributes. This is what I was referring to at the end of “The Foundations of the Religion” when I said:

“Identifying literal meanings that are absurd is of particular importance in matters of belief, so it deserves a more detailed discussion. It should first be pointed out that rejecting absurd meanings and understanding expressions as figures of speech is something natural that we all do constantly. To illustrate: A few years ago the telephone company AT&T had an advertising slogan saying, “Reach out and touch someone.” What they meant here was not a physical touch, but simply pleasing another person by calling them. To interpret this slogan literally would be absurd and laughable. We know this through our knowledge of what a telephone is and what it is not.

In this same manner, among others, figurative speech is identified in the Quran and hadith; a learned Muslim knows what attributes are impossible for the Creator or a prophet to have. He knows thereby that expressions in the Quran whose literal meaning implies attributes that are physical, or have a beginning, or an end, or change, must not be taken literally. He knows that interpreting them literally would be absurd and an insult to the Creator, just like the sane person who heard the AT&T slogan knew its literal meaning to be absurd.”

You may also benefit from reading Wahhabi Contention: How are “Ar Rahmanu `alal `arsh istawa” and “Laysaka mithlihi shay`” different?

Abu Adam

1كشف المشكل ج3/ص379: 1819 2257 – وفي الحديث التسعين ينزل ربنا كل ليلة إلى السماء الدنيا حين يبقى ثلث الليل الآخر وفي رواية إذا ذهب ثلث الليل الأول أصح الروايات عن أبي هريرة إذا بقي ثلث الليل الآخر كذلك قال الترمذي وحديث النزول قد رواه جماعة عن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم منهم أبو بكر وعلي وابن مسعود وأبو الدرداء وابن عباس وأبو هريرة وجبير بن مطعم ورفاعة الجهني والنواس بن سمعان وأبو ثعلبة الخشني وعثمان بن أبي العاص وعائشة في آخرين وقد ذكرت فيما تقدم من مسند ابن عمر وأنس وغيرهما في مثل هذه الأشياء أنه يجب علينا أن نعرف ما يجوز على الله سبحانه وما يستحيل ومن المستحيل عليه الحركة والنقلة والتغير فيبقى ما ورد في هذا فالناس فيه قائلان أحدهما الساكت عن الكلام فيه وقد حكى أبو عيسى الترمذي عن مالك بن أنس وسفيان بن عيينة وعبد الله بن المبارك أنهم قالوا في هذه الأحاديث أمروها بلا كيف فهذه كانت طريقة عامة السلف والثاني المتأول فهو يحملها على ما توجبه سعة اللغة لعلمه بأن ما يتضمنه النزول من الحركة مستحيل على الله سبحانه وتعالى وقد قال الإمام أحمد “وجاء ربك” (الفجر 22 ) أي جاء أمره .

–Abul Faraj Ibn Al-Jawzi (508-597 AH/ 1114-1201 AD). Kashf Al-Mushkil. Riyadh: Dar Al Watan, 1997.