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.


The “simple” Wahabi belief

January 10, 2009

According to the Wahabies Allah is literally above the throne without ever leaving it, AND literally in the sky of the world in the last third of the night (i.e. always, because the Earth is round, so it is always the last third of the night somewhere.) Anyone see a problem here? Then they say it is blasphemy to Read the rest of this entry »


Al-Qurţubiyy explains why Aļļaah is not in a place or direction, and does not change.

January 8, 2009

Al-Qurţubiyy (the famous mufassir) said: “It is said to them [the anthopomorphists who believe Aļļaah is in a place or direction, etc.]: “If Allaah was specified by a specification, formed by a form, limited by a limit and end, existing in a specific direction, [or] changing by emergent [previously non existing] attributes in Himself, then Read the rest of this entry »


Ibn Taymiyyah says Allaah needs, is divisible, and settles in a place

January 6, 2009

To know the pitiful state of the one the Wahabi sect calls “Sħaykħ of Islaam,” read the following from his book Bayaan Talbiis Al-Jahmiyyah1., in which he criticizes Fakħruddiin Ar-Raaziyy’s arguments against anthropomorphism: Read the rest of this entry »


More Wahabi nonsense about Aļļaah’s attributes being emergent

December 19, 2008

Wahabi said: “If one were to call the arabic language created as it is the action and implementation of the ilm of Allah, Read the rest of this entry »


Wakiiˆ on those who say “the Qur’aan is created.”

October 29, 2008

We have previously pointed out that the Wahabis believe that Aļļaah’s attribute of Kalaam/Speech is created, without them being aware of this. To this their response was that it is emergent, but not created, based on their curious idea that not all emergent things are created. We pointed out to them in another article that this is has no basis in the Arabic language or the terminology of the Salaf. To the Salaf there is no difference between saying “emergent and “created.” Below we bring another quote from a famous imam of the Salaf emphasizing this. For those not so familiar with this topic, it would be very important to read the two links referenced above first.

Al-Bayhaqiyy narrated in Al-Asmaa’ Wa-ş-Şifaat that Wakiiˆ said: “The Qur’aan (i.e. what the Arabic words and letters refer to) is the Speech/ Kalaam of Aļļaah (i.e. His eternal attribute), and it is not created. So the one that says it is created has disbelieved in Aļļaah.” In another narration he said, “The one that says the Qur’aan is created has said it is emergent, and the one that says it is emergent has blasphemed (1/608-609)⁠.1” The same was narrated by Adħ-Dħahabiyy in Siyar ‘Aˆlaam An-Nubalaa’ (9/166)⁠ 2


For those who do not know who Wakiiˆ is, it was stated by Adħ-Dħahabiyy in Siyar ‘Aˆlaam An-Nubalaa’: “The Imaam, the Ĥaafiţħ, the Muĥadditħ of ˆIraaq, …. He was born in 129 after the Hijrah (9/140-141)⁠.3” He said that Aĥmad ibn Ĥanbal used to glorify Wakiiˆ and say about him, “I have never met anyone more aware in his knowledge than Wakiiˆ, or anyone that has memorized more (9/144)⁠.4” In short, Wakiiˆ is one of the greatest ĥadiitħ masters in history and here we find him making takfiir for the Wahabis who say that the the Qur’aan (i.e. the eternal attribute of Aļļaah that the book refers to) is emergent (ĥaaditħ/ having a beginning) but not created.

References:

Abu Bakr Al-Bayhqiyy (458 AH). Al-Asmaa’ Wa-ş-Şifaat li-l-Bayhaqiyy. Jedda, Saudi Arabia: Maktabah Al-Sawaadiyy.

Adħ-Dħahabiyy, SħamsudDiin. Siyar ‘Aˆlaam An-Nubalaa’. Beirut, Lebanon: Mu’assasatu-r-Risaalah, 1413.

1الأسماء والصفات للبيهقي – (ج 1 / ص 608-609) 547- وأخبرنا أبو عبد الله الحافظ ، وأبو سعيد بن أبي عمرو ، قال : حَدَّثَنَا أبو العباس محمد بن يعقوب ، حَدَّثَنَا محمد بن إسحاق الصاغاني ، حَدَّثَنَا حسين بن علي بن الأسود ، قال : سمعت وكيعا ، يقول : القرآن كلام الله تعالى ليس بمخلوق ، فمن زعم أنه مخلوق فقد كفر بالله العظيم وفي رواية محمد بن نصر المروزي عن أبي هشام الرفاعي ، عن وكيع ، قال : من زعم أن القرآن مخلوق ، فقد زعم أن القرآن محدث ، ومن زعم أن القرآن محدث فقد كفر

2سير أعلام النبلاء – (ج 9 / ص 166) : قال أبو هشام الرفاعي: سمعت وكيعا يقول: من زعم أن القرآن مخلوق، فقد زعم أنه محدث، ومن زعم أن القرآن محدث، فقد كفر.

3سير أعلام النبلاء – (ج 9 / ص 140-141) : وكيع * (ع) ابن الجراح، بن مليح، بن عدي، بن فرس، بن جمجمة، بن سفيان، بن الحارث، بن عمرو، بن عبيد، بن رؤاس، الامام الحافظ، محدث العراق، أبو سفيان الرؤاسي، الكوفي، أحد الاعلام. ولد سنة تسع وعشرين ومئة، قاله أحمد بن حنبل. وقال خليفة وهارون بن حاتم: ولد سنة ثمان وعشرين. واشتغل في الصغر.

4سير أعلام النبلاء – (ج 9 / ص 144) : وقال أحمد بن حنبل: ما رأيت أحدا أوعى للعلم ولا أحفظ من وكيع.قلت: كان أحمد يعظم وكيعا ويفخمه. قال محمد بن عامر المصيصي: سألت أحمد: وكيع أحب إليك أو يحيى بن سعيد ؟ فقال: وكيع، قلت: كيف فضلته على يحيى، ويحيى ومكانه من العلم والحفظ والاتقان ما قد علمت ؟ قال: وكيع كان صديقا لحفص بن غياث، فلما ولي القضاء، هجره، وإن يحيى كان صديقا لمعاذ بن معاذ، فلما ولي القضاء، لم يهجره يحيى.


Wahabi claims that there are infinitely many creations in the past (infinite regress)

September 23, 2008

The Wahabi author said: The Ash’aris believe that before God created the creation it was impossible for any event to occur, since they consider infinite regress in the past an impossibility.

Comment: By creation we mean something brought into existence. Events are anything that did not exist and then became existent. All events need to be created otherwise they will remain non-existent. Accordingly, before Aļļaah created creation, there was no creation, so there were no events. If you say there were events before creation, then you are saying there were creations before creation, and that is a contradiction.

The Wahabi author said: This means that God was not doing absolutely anything before He created the world. Not only that, but also it was impossible for God to do anything before the creation of the world, because for anything to occur then was itself impossible.

The statement “This means that God was not doing absolutely anything before He created the world.” is based on your own premise that Aļļaah exists in time and that His act of creating is itself an event, none of which Sunnis claim. You are also implying that Aļļaah must create to avoid imperfection, since you say that if He did not create He would be “doing absolutely nothing.” This statement of yours shows that you believe Aļļaah needs to create in order to to avoid “doing absolutely nothing.” As you said, “Strange how a believer can argue that God was absolutely actionless, ‘out of work’ or ‘jobless’ prior to the creation of the world, when Allah says He is fa”alun lima yurid.” This means, according to you, and based on your premise that Aļļaah’s actions are existing events, that Aļļaah is compelled to create, and has no choice but to create, otherwise He would be imperfect. The idea of Aļļaah being compelled to create is a belief you share with the Greek Philosophers. You taking the aayah:
إِنَّ رَبَّكَ فَعَّالٌ لِمَا يُرِيدُ
meaning: “Verily Your Lord does whatever He wills (Huud, 107),” as proof that Aļļaah must create to avoid being what you call “joblessness” makes me question your sanity. “Does whatever He wills” means what it says, it doesn’t mean “must do what He does.”

Your statement also means that there is no first creation. In other words, you are saying that creation is eternal without a beginning. This is blasphemy according to all Sunni scholars, and is the belief of the Greek Philosophers, adopted later by Ibn Taymiyyah, in order to defend his idea that Aļļaah is something physical with events (something non existent becoming existent) occurring in it, just like creation. Ibn Ĥajar Al-ˆAsqalaaniyy said: “Qaađiy ˆIiaađ and others narrated that there is scholarly ijmaaˆ consensus on the takfiir of the person that says the world (ˆaalam, i.e. anything other than Aļļaah) is eternal.”
قد حكى عياض وغيره الإجماع على تكفير من يقول بقدم العالم

The statement “Not only that, but also it was impossible for God to do anything before the creation of the world, because for anything to occur then was itself impossible,” is a trick to change the topic at hand. We are not talking about whether there could have been a single world before this one or even a trillion worlds, or more. What we are talking about is whether they could have been infinitely many. The answer to that is no, because infinity by definition cannot be completed. If you say there were infinitely many worlds before this one, then you are saying that the creation of infinitely many worlds was completed before this world, and that contradicts the meaning of infinity, which is that it cannot be completed.

Not only that, but to say that Aļļaah is the creator of everything, and then say that there is no first creation, is contradictory, because what does not have a first, does not have a beginning, and what does not have a beginning does not have a creator. Or to phrase it differently, if you say that there are infinitely many creations in the past, then all creation as a whole does not have a beginning, and what does not have a beginning does not have a creator. You cannot logically claim that something that does not have a beginning is created, because being created means having a beginning.

To claim that creation as a whole is created then, you must say that it has a beginning, and that there is a creation that is first.

So we are not talking about ability, but about logical contradictions.

Put it this way, if someone asks, “was it possible for Aļļaah to create a world to exist before this one?” then the answer is yes, and you can ask this question again and again and the answer is always the same. Why? Because we are talking about a limited number, one being added at the time of each question. What you cannot do is complete asking this question infinitely many times in order to claim that the possibility of one more world means that infinitely many more are possible. You can never finish asking this question infinitely many times, and that is why infinitely many worlds completed in the past is impossible. That is why the Wahabi claim that “if you believe that Allah was able to create before our creation, you have already believed in the possibility of infinite regress in the past,” is completely false. Put it in yet another way: one could not finish asking this question infinitely many times before the creation of this world.


Wahabies say that Aļļaah’s speech is created, but do not know it.

August 16, 2008

Wahabi said: As for your question regarding the speech of Allah being composed of letters and words, one after the other, how can it be then eternal; if you understand our argument about infinite regress of events in the past, you will understand how Allah’s words are eternal. In fact, to claim otherwise as the Mu’tazilas do is clear cut Kufr. The Quran that we have is the uncreated speech of Allah, which is composed of Suras, verses, words and letters. This has been the creed of Imam Ahmad, and the rest of Ahl al-Sunnah, and this is one of the strongest proof for the Sunni doctrine in support of infinite regress of events in past and future.

Comment:

Infinite past events is impossible

This is contrary to your claim, because saying that past events are infinite is to say that the events prior to this moment in time have not finished. This is self-contradictory.

Words and letters is the kind of speech that creatures have

Speech consisting of words and letters is the speech of creation. For this reason one cannot say that Aļļaah’s eternal attribute of Speech is letters and sounds, because Aļļaah said:

“لَيْسَ كَمِثْلِهِ شَيْءٌ”

Meaning: “Absolutely nothing resembles Him.” (Al-Sħuuraa, 11)


Words and letters must be creations

Why? Because words and letters have a beginning. So in “bismillaah”, for example “i” comes after “b”, so when you say bismillaah, the sound “i” only becomes existent after “b” ‘s non-existence. This means “i” has become existent after non existence, which means that it needs a creator to exist. Nothing can come into existence without a creator, all Muslims must believe that.

In other words, speech that consists of words and letters is created, and since you say that Aļļaah’s eternal attribute of Speech is words and letters, then you are saying that it is created, even if you say it is “uncreated.” In other words, you made takfiir for yourself when you said: “Allah’s words are eternal. In fact, to claim otherwise, as the Mu’tazilas do, is clear cut Kufr.”

The Muˆtazilah said, like you, that Aļļaah’s speech is letters and sounds. They said it is created because it is letters and sounds, and letters and sounds have a beginning, so they must be created. You take this one step further in deviation by denying the obvious, which is that anything with a beginning, such as letters, is a creation. It is a creation because it came into existence, which means it was brought into existence. To be brought into existence is the very definition of being created.

Besides, do you not know that the Arabic language was created by Aļļaah? So if Arabic is a creation, how can Arabic speech be anything but a creation?

The meaning of the phrase “Qu’aan is not created”
When Ahlu-s-Sunnah, the AsħˆAriyys and the Ĥanafiyys, say that the “Qu’aan is not created” they are referring to Aļļaah’s eternal attribute of speech that is not sound or letters. In other words, the Speech that the book of the Qur’aan refers to.

The saying of Ahlu-s-Sunnah is that the words and letters in the printed copies of the Qu’raan refer to Aļļaah’s eternal kalaam, and tell us in Arabic what He said eternally without letters, sounds or words. It is therefore correct to say that “the Qur’aan is not created,” because the word “qur’aan” actually refers to what Aļļaah tells us, and His speech is not created. It is not correct, however, to say that the words, letters, and sounds associated with the book are not created, because words and letters need a creator, and because the Arabic language, the language of the book, is a creation.

An example to clarify is that the word “Aļļaah” refers to Aļļaah. I do not worship these letters, or the sounds of uttering this word. Rather, I worship the one they refer to. In the same sense, the words, letters and Arabic in the book are not themselves Aļļaah’s attribute of Speech, but refer to that attribute. They tell us what Aļļaah said.

Even in our daily lives, we speak of speech in this way. So for example, if I have a transcript in Arabic of something the U.N. Secretary General said, I will refer to it as “the U.N. Secretary General‘s speech”, although his actual, real speech is something in the president Himself, meanings inside of him that he wanted to express (like when you say, “I have something to say in mind) – his internal speech. Alternatively, his real speech is his speech of letters and sounds, that he expressed in another language at a particular point in time, the speech that was originally just meanings that he had in mind. The paper with the transcript, however, just tells me what he said. So if I handed the Arabic transcript to someone saying, “This is the U.N. Secretary General‘s speech,” no one would understand from this that his real speech was in Arabic. No one would tell me, “liar, it was not in Arabic.” No one would tell me, “Liar, the speech of the president occurred days ago from his mouth. It was sounds, not written words.”

The reason is that such transcripts and other forms of narration, that refer to the speaker’s real speech are customarily called “so and so’s speech.” This is why the letter’s and sounds we find in the books of the Qur’aan are called Aļļaah’s Kalaam/Speech, even though His eternal speech is not created, and therefore not words, letters or sounds.

From this we know that the word “Qur’aan” has two meanings. The first is the book, the organized and sequential Arabic words and letters of the muşĥaf. The second it the eternal Speech of Aļļaah that the words and letters of the muşĥaf refer to, and that is not itself words, letters, language or sequence.

Lately some of the wahabis think themselves clever and ask: “Who said alif laam miim?” Let me respond to that with a question: “Who created the Arabic language which alif and laam and miim are part of?”


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.


Fakhruddin Al Raazi makes takfir for the Mujassimah, the Hululiyyah and the Hurufiyyah

August 1, 2008

Proofs tell us that the who says that God is a body is a disbeliever in God (who is greatly above and clear of flaws). The reason is that the God of the World exists, and He is not a body, or stationed in a body. So if the one who believes that God is a body denies this non-bodily existence, then he has disbelieved in God Himself. This means that the disagreement between the one that believes that God is a body, and the monotheist (i.e. in the Islamic sense, namely that God does not have a partner, part or a like in His self of attributes), is not based on a disagreement regarding attributes, but regarding the self (i.e. the identity of the one attributed with godhood.) It is sound to say then, that the one who believes that God is a body does not believe in Allah….

As for the Hululiyyah (those who believe that Allah settles in created things, such as the sky or a human body) and Hurufiyyah (those who believe that Allah’s attribute of Kalam/Speech consists of letters and sounds) sects, we say that they are unequivocally disbelievers. This is because Allah declared the Christians blasphemers for believing that Allah’s speech entered into Jesus, whereas the Hurufiyyah believe that it settles in the tongue of all those who recite Quran, and in all physical things that the Quran was written on. Accordingly, if the belief in its settlement in one single body (Jesus) is blasphemy, then it is even more blasphemous to believe that it settles in all shapes and bodies (Fakhruddin Al Raazi. Mafaatiiĥ Al-Għayb[1])


[1] الدليل دل على أن من قال إن الإله جسم فهو منكر للإله تعالى، وذلك لأن إله العالم موجود ليس بجسم ولا حال في الجسم، فإذا أنكر المجسم هذا الموجود فقد أنكر ذات الإله تعالى، فالخلاف بين المجسم والموحد ليس في الصفة، بل في الذات، فصح في المجسم أنه لا يؤمن بالله أما المسائل التي حكيتموها فهي اختلافات في الصفة، فظهر الفرق. وأما إلزام مذهب الحلولية والحروفية، فنحن نكفرهم قطعاً، فإنه تعالى كفر النصارى بسبب أنهم اعتقدوا حلول كلمة { ٱللَّهِ } في عيسى وهؤلاء اعتقدوا حلول كلمة { ٱللَّهِ } في ألسنة جميع من قرأ القرآن، وفي جميع الأجسام التي كتب فيها القرآن، فإذا كان القول بالحلول في حق الذات الواحدة يوجب التكفير، فلأن يكون القول بالحلول في حق جميع الأشخاص والأجسام موجباً للقول بالتكفير كان أولى.


Q & A: Christians say that Muslims limit the Creator

June 15, 2008

Someone asked: I have a question that I was hoping Shaykh Abu Adam could answer: How do we (the Ash’aris and Maturidis) respond to Christians who say that when Muslims state that the Creator cannot become human (as the Christians claim about Isa (alayhis salam)), they are limiting God and, therefore, this makes the Creator not all powerful. They claim that if the Creator is all poweful, then He would have to power and ability to become human, if Allah wills. How do the ‘ulema of Ahlus Sunnah wal Jama’a respond to this?

Answer: First of all, one must be careful of how they frame their questions. You had stated, “Question: Muslims Limit the Creator.” The correct way of saying this would be to say, “Christians say that Muslims limit the Creator.” Whenever you say something that is kufr, and you want to attribute that statement to a kafir, then make sure you mention the attribution as well. So whenever you want to mention a kufr statement, always say, “So and so said such and such,” and then mention the statement. The “so and so” is important.

Now, to your actual question.

Let’s begin by considering a simple example. If I say, “Can you draw a square circle?” you would respond, “That’s an absurd question.” This is known as a contradiction in terms.

Let’s take a more subtle example. Can you contain infinity? Again, the obvious response is, “What in the world does this mean?” The answer to this question is obvious. Something can only be contained in some space (for example water in a bottle) if it is limited (say 3 liters of water). How can you “contain” infinity if “containment” requires finiteness?

A similar reasoning will apply to the Christian argument. The Christians state that, “Since Allah can do anything, that Allah has complete control over everything, He can turn Himself into a man, or can contain Himself in a man, or is a man.” Now think about the two examples I gave you above. Don’t they look the same? To be a man, is to be part of creation. Sayyiduna Isa alaihissalam is a man, therefore he is part of creation. To be created is to have come into existence. To have come into existence is to have a beginning. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala is Al-Awwal which means that He is attributed with Beginninglessness. Christians accept the Beginninglessness of Allah, which means that Allah is not subject to sequential moments of time like His creation is. Thus how can one say that “God became man,” or “God turned Himself into a man,” or “God contained Himself in a man,” without accepting that such a proposition would lead to an absurdity? Saying that “God became man,” is like saying, “God ended His Beginninglessness,” and this is clear kufr, as well as being logically absurd. The Christians accept the Beginninglessness while believing in the false idea of “God becoming man.” However, the two are mutually contradictory. You cannot believe in one while believing in the other.

To make matters clear, if one says that, “God became man,” and at the same time one says that “God is Al Awwal,” such a person is holding two mutually contradictory beliefs. If one believes that Allah is Al Awwal, then one must also necessarily accept that Allah has absolutely no resemblance whatsoever to His creation. When one says that, “God became man,” such a person has automatically violated His belief in Allah’s Begininnglessness. Now either such a person believes in on or the other. If he believes in both, he needs to get his head checked.

Off course the Christians have more sophisticated arguments than this, but since this is the way you have presented your question, I think the above answer should suffice.

Authored by Ibn Mazhar

Checked, revised and approved by Shaykh Abu Adam al Nauiji


Q & A: Someone asked, “Is it kufr to say that Allah sees and hears literally?”

June 11, 2008

Question: I’ve a Question after reflecting on that Article and my question is concerning the Tahawiyyah Phrase. “Wa man wasafa Allaha bima’nan min ma’ani al bashar faqad kafar” – “And whoever attributes Allah with an attribute that has a meaning that applies to humans has committed kufr.” Would it be kufr to say Allah literally has a hand but not kufr to say Allah literally sees and hears and if so then why, because the Ma’ana of seeing also applies to Human?

Answer: We must believe that the meaning of the words hearing and seeing are different in meaning when they refer to Allah. This is true about all words referring to Allah’s attributes. In my commentary on the Sanuusiyyah I said regarding the attributes of seeing, hearing and kalam:

Allah is attributed with:

_____________________________________

11)     {Hearing (Al-Samˆ/السمع),

12)     and Sight (Al-Başar/البصر), both of which pertain to all that exists,} Allah said in the Quran:

“لَيْسَ كَمِثْلِهِ شَيْءٌ وَهُوَ السَّمِيعُ الْبَصِيرُ”
Meaning: “Nothing resembles Him, and He is All-Hearing, All-Seeing.”(Ash-Shuraa, 11)

From this we understand that His Hearing and Seeing is not like our hearing or seeing. They are not by an instrument, such an ear or an eye. They are not dependent on vibrations, light or distance. This is because Allah is One, and does not need anything. His hearing and seeing is also not sequential, because Allah does not change. Things that are seen or heard are sequential, but His hearing
and seeing of them are not.

13)     {Speech (Al-Kalaam/الكلام), without letter or sound, which pertains to whatever His Knowledge pertains to.}

Allah said in the Qur’aan:

“وَكَلَّمَ اللَّهُ مُوسَى تَكْلِيمًا”
Meaning: “And Allah spoke to Moses.” (An-Nisaa’, 164) That is, with His Speech that is not letters or sounds.

Allah’s speech is not resonant, as our speech is, but it is possible that Allah remove our inability to hear His speech so we could hear it and understand from it what He has willed for us to understand.
Beyond this, we are not required to, and in fact cannot, know Allah’s attribute of Speech.

In the hereafter, Muslims will hear Allah’s speech, as Moses did. That is, without His speech being letters, sounds, words, sequential meanings or starting, stopping, or having any other senses of
beginning.

It must be true that Allah’s Speech is eternal and does not have any beginning, because otherwise it would need a creator to give it existence. It is irrational to say that Allah’s speech is letters or sounds, and then say that it is not created. This is because letters and sounds have a beginning, and anything with a beginning must be brought into existence, and being brought into existence is to be
created.

Muslims will also see Allah without Him being in a direction, place, at a distance or having a form. It was authentically narrated by Imam Al-Bukhari that the Prophet said:

ما مِنْكُمْ من أَحَدٍ إلا سَيُكَلِّمُهُ رَبُّهُ ليس بَيْنَهُ وَبَيْنَهُ تُرْجُمَانٌ ولا حِجَابٌ يَحْجُبُهُ

Every one of you will be spoken to by His Lord without an intermediary. There will also be no flaw in your sight preventing you from seeing Him <without Him having a shape, or being in a direction or place>.” (Al-Bukhari, 7005).

This is not like hearing or seeing a creation, because Allah said in the Quran that,

“لَيْسَ كَمِثْلِهِ شَيْءٌ”
Meaning: “Nothing resembles Him.” (Asħ-Sħuuraa,11)

It must be noted regarding Allah’s attributes of Hearing, Seeing and Speech that they absolutely must be true of Him, and are not something that may be. They are attributes of perfection and necessity, not abilities. It is therefore forbidden to say that Allah is able to hear, see or speak, because that implies that He may be hearing, seeing or speaking, which is a blasphemous belief. Thus we say that Allah hears, or Allah sees, or Allah speaks, but one must never say, “Allah can hear,” or “can see,” or “can speak.” In other words, Allah is attributed with hearing, sight, and speech that have neither beginning, nor end, nor are they composed of parts, nor do they have sequence, and have nothing in common with our attributes of hearing, sight, and speech.

_____________________________________

The difference between the word “hand” and the words “hearing” and “sight” is that the former tends to bring the idea of a bodypart, instrument or limb to mind immediately upon hearing it. Hearing and sight are not like that. That is why it would be kufr to say that Allah has a hand in the literal sense. In the case of someone saying that Allah “literally hears” or “literally sees” it is not immediately clear what he means. If he means that Allah has hears or eyes or that his hearing or seeing of things are sequential, then it is kufr. It is not kufr, however, if he simply wanted to emphasize that Allah really has those attributes, while believing that His hearing and seeing is not by instruments, and do not have a beginning or and end, and do not change.

Authored by Shaykh Abu Adam


Refutation of “Kalam & Trinity”

June 8, 2008

as salam `alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu

This is a detailed exposition of the article “Kalam & Trinity” authored by Dawud Israel of http://www.muslimology.org.

I have attempted here to give as detailed an exposition as possible of the problematic statements he has made in his article.

A few brief comments before diving in:

  • One should always define their terms. Using undefined and vague terms becomes problematic. I refer to the use of the word “Kalam.” He apparently seem to be criticizing the Kalam of the heretics. What else did the Kalam of the Sunnis seek to do if it wasn’t that?
  • One must be careful when saying anything with respect to Allah. Many seemingly harmless statements can be kufr. I’ve pointed out some mistakes of this nature.
  • I think the grammatically correct way of saying it would be “The Trinity” and not simply “Trinity.”

His statements are in bold blue, and mine are in simple black.

Dawud says: Perhaps this is why the Christians stuck to their belief in Trinity; their discomfort with monolithic Islam.

You meant monotheistic. It would be folly to say that Islam is monolithic. Even within the Ahl al Sunnah you have so many variations that it’s impossible to say that even Sunni Islam is “monolithic.” I hope that was a mistake.

Dawud says: But in Islam Allah is simply One and there is no difficulty conceivable with this, unless one forcefully encourages himself to make this simple concept difficult (i.e. Ahlul-Kalam).

First mistake: You didn’t define kalam. First define “kalam,” then define “difficulty” and then connect the two.

You have forced yourself into thinking that kalam makes tawhid difficult when this is not true.

That is not to say that kalam doesn’t deal with difficult topics, but that is a far cry from saying that kalam made Tawhid difficult to understand.

Furthermore, you’re ignoring the different levels at which the human mind operates. Actually, you’ve axed your own foot here. Tawhid is going to be a difficult topic for a Christian, precisely because he is a Christian. On this basis, a Christian needs to be dealt with according to his or her level of understanding, not at the “easy” level of understanding that a normal lay Muslim believer has.

Dawud says: We can understand from the Quran that Trinity was a sort of ‘kalam before kalam’-that is to say that the Christian priests had done something not too dissimilar from what Ahlul-Kalam would do; and this placed them dangerously close to shirk: “They take their rabbis and their monks as gods besides Allah…” (9:31).

Again, I don’t see the link. You’re treading on extremely dangerous grounds. How in the world is the Christian view of things “not too dissimilar” from kalam? Again, a serious lacking in the definition of terms is observable.

This should be a lesson to you. Always define your terms. You can observe this method in absolutely any classical text on absolutely any classical Islamic topic.

Dawud says: As it is obvious the Christians would try to explain the Trinity as a Unity, as being one and would focus on repeating, “They are one” in as many ways as he possibly could. The Muslims would merely say, “But they are still three.”

That, my friend, is the beginning of kalam, vis a vis a Christian. That is the entrance of classical logic into the picture. Again, I must say, you axed your own foot. That is, precisely, what kalam is all about.

Dawud says: Today it’s ironic that when the Christians analogy is refuted by the Muslim that he responds, “Well it’s just an analogy,” as if he knows that a clever analogy can never be enough to bring someone into his faith.

“Axed your own foot” seems to be my favorite idiom. Again, you’ve done it here. A discussion on fallacious analogies is part of classical logic, which incidentally is part of kalam.

Dawud says: We can understand that the Christian mind thinks of the Word as Jesus. In Islam it is interesting to note that this is true to an extent as Jesus was created from the Word of Allah.

I hope you made a mistake here, because if taken literally, that statement is clear kufr. There’s two ways you could read that statement:

  1. The “Word” of Allah is created, and Isa alaihissalam was created from it.
  2. The “Word” of Allah is not created, and Isa alaihissalam was created from it.

The first one is clear kufr, because it assumes that the “Word” of Allah is created. That is the belief of the Mu`tazilis.

The second statement could perhaps as well imply the same type of emanation or hypostaseis that the Christians have used. There is fundamentally no difference between saying that Sayyiduna Isa was created from the “Word” of Allah, and saying that the Father is the uncaused, while the Son is the caused and proceeding. This is extremely close to the belief in the eternality of the world, though that is another topic altogether.

Suffices to say that Sayyiduna Isa alaihissalam was created, that is, from another creation or from nothing.

The laqab of Sayyiduna Isa is “Kalimat-Allah”, or if someone translated it literally: “Word of Allah,” and the value of this title is metaphoric. It refers to the fact that Isa was created by Allah’s decree, like everything else, but without a father.

Dawud says: The spirit however is a somewhat different as the Spirit or Soul (ruh) could be understood in a general sense. The Spirit (ruh) is understood to mean Gabriel (as) and at other times to mean the human soul and its connection to Allah for He “blew His spirit (the soul) in him,” (32:9).

To say that the ruh is connected to Allah is exactly the kufr of the Christians. It is the belief that Allah is physical and therefore “connected.”

Dawud says: O people of the Book! Do not commit excesses in your religion and speak only the truth about Allah. The Messiah Jesus son of Mary was but the Messenger of Allah, His word (the word “Be” that Allah used to create him) that He cast onto Mary and a spirit (or soul) from Him. So believe in Allah and His Messenger and do not say, “Three” (thalath). It will be best for you to desist. Allah is the only One God. He is Pure from having children. To Him belongs what is in the heavens and what is in the Earth. (Quran 4:171)

Linking this back to the comment I made earlier, this is a laqab, not the Attribute. It’s the same as saying Bayt Allah or Habeeb Allah. It’s the nisbat idafiyyah in Arabic. It’s not the “Word” be as you wrongfully imagine, because if that was the case, then everything in creation is the “Word of Allah” because every single thing in creation came about by Aļļaah’s decree.

Your using the word “used” is extremely dangerous. It shows that one believes Allah is like a sorcerer with magical formulas. The meaning of the Quranic “kun fayakuun” is that Allah decreed without a beginning or end that something is to be so and so at such and such a time, or it is a figurative expression meaning that nothing is difficult for Him.

Dawud says: In this verse it is interesting to note a few things. At the start of the ayah there is the phraseology similar to Christian thought of “His Word” and “A spirit from Him” but in the latter part of the ayah there is a clear definition of Tawhid. What is especially important is the turning point in the ayah: “So believe in Allah and His Messenger and do not say, “Three” (thalath).” One thing that we understand from human psychology is that when a person speaks and then says “but”-the listener does not pay attention to what was said before the “but” rather they only pay attention to the latter part. Allah uses the word “and” (wa la takullu) instead of “but” and this serves as the bridge; reminding the Christian of the Injeel but negating shirk.

Try not to be mufassir. Speaking on the ayaat of the Quran without knowledge surely lands one in hellfire, even if one’s tafsir was correct.

Dawud says: Like Harut and Marut these Greek philosophers were nothing more than a test from Allah yet the scholars chose to learn a speech not too distant from shirk.

Again, you have yet to show how kalam is shirk.

Dawud says: Kalam breached the Aqeedah of the believers; for how could man try and understand the nature of Allah; the ant could not understand the nature of Sulyamaan (as) so what chance does man have against His Lord?

What? Kalam tried to understand the nature of Allah? Kalam “breached” the Aqidah of the Believers? The aqaid are mentioned in the books like the Tahawiyyah. Kalam is a rational defense of those beliefs.

Dawud says: Kalam was, for that matter, not known to the Prophet SAAWS or any of the Sahabas nor was it ever mentioned to have any virtue in it or as an encouraged act in the Sunnah and so it takes its place in Islam as little more than a pseudo-science.

Usul al fiqh was not practiced by the Rasul sallallahu alaihi wasallam, nor the ashab. Usul al tafsir wasn’t either. Sunni kalam was merely developed by the Muslims to fight heresies. It’s as simple as that. As such, the first heresies that needed to be fought were the Mu`tazila and the Kharijites. In fact, the ashab refuted the heresies of the Kharijites. That, my friend, is kalam.

Dawud says: Either revelation was flawed or the mind and the Ahlul Kalam made the mistake of choosing mind over revelation.

Again, another false claim, without proof. The key element in the discussion on the attributes is the element of tanzih, or affirming that Allah is completely dissimilar to His creation.

But first, a lesson in Arabic. We know that words in the Arabic language can mean a ton of different things. Hence, the earliest Muslims would not venture to speak on the attributes and simply pass the words as they had received them from the Quran or the Hadiths, not because of a lack of knowledge of what those words might mean, but because they did not want to get into specifics and discuss these issues. Hence, the word “yad”, for example, was left as it is, because in the Arabic language, not as an attribute, it can mean “hand” as well as “power.” Or the word “wajh” which can mean “face” or “countenance,” or other meanings. Allh are meanings from the Arabic language. To understand this is key.

Tafweed is to simply consign the meaning really meant by those words to Allah, while denying it could be a meaning that would mean that Allah resembles created things. It’s really simple to understand. We read the word “yad” in the Quran, applied to Allah. We know, linguistically, it could mean “hand” or it could mean “power.” We also know that it is impossible that Allah should have a hand in the sense of a part or a limb. Tafweed is to affirm that we do not know what the real meaning of yad is, while being firm that it does not mean limb.

Note that there is a permissible tafweed and an impermissible tafweed. The question of permissibility centers around the physical import of certain words as they are applied to Allah.

Let’s take the example of “yad.” If someone says that he believes that “yad” could mean “hand”, as it applies to Allah, then this is clearly impermissible because otherwise we would be contradicting the Quran, which clearly says, “There is nothing like unto Him.” Impermissible tafweed would be to say that we acknowledge that it is possible for the word “yad” to mean anything, including the physical “hand.”

If someone were to say that he wants to consign the meaning of “yad” to Allah, along with denying the physical meaning of a word, then this type of tafweed is permissible. Denying the meaning “hand” is NOT the same as denying the attribute of “yad” itself. Denying one possible meaning does not imply denial of the attribute itself, especially when this denial is based on another statement in the Quran. This denial is important because Allah categorically does NOT resemble anything, as He Himself has stated.

Let’s consider the possibility of acknowledging the meaning of “yad” as hand. So someone says, “I believe that ‘yad’ means ‘hand.’ Since Allah says he has a ‘yad,’ this means he has a ‘hand.’ But I also believe that Allah is completely dissimilar to His creation.” If someone says this, then he has fallen into the SAME trap the Christians fell into. Just like the Christians who affirmed a logical impossibility (3 = 1), this person has affirmed a logical impossibility, namely, that Allah has a “hand” and yet is completely dissimilar to His creation. How in the world can something be completely dissimilar to His creation if it also possess a “hand”? A “hand” is an attribute of creation. A hand is created. If someone says that Allah has a hand, then he has attributed to Allah something that is an attribute of creation. Now, if the affirmation of something is contradictory, its denial simply has to be the right course. In this way we know that denial of the physical import has to accompany any tafweed.

This denial of the physical import is, contrary to popular opinion, present amongst the Salaf. The Tahawiyyah states:

Wa la yashbihuhul anam – And Humans do not resemble Him.

AND

Wa man wasafa Allaha bima’nan min ma’ani al bashar faqad kafar – And whoever attributes Allah with an attribute that has a meaning that applies to humans has committed kufr.

Therefore, both the consignment of the meaning of an attribute to Allah and the denial of its physical meaning is from the Salaf. If Al Tahawi is not from the Salaf, then I don’t know who is.

Now let’s try to understand ta`wil. Ta`wil is simply the affirmation of one meaning of a word, when other possible meanings exist. Therefore, to say that Allah has a “hand,” is effectively ta`wil, because one has confined the meaning of the word “yad” to the word “hand.” The same applies to the word “power.” If someone says that the word “yad” means “power,” he has also made ta`wil. Just like tafweed, ta`wil is permissible and impermissible.

The impermissible ta`wil is where (1) one affirms the physical meaning of a word OR (2) one affirms a non-physical meaning of a word and confines his affirmation to that meaning alone without sufficient proof.

The permissible ta`wil is where one affirms a non-physical meaning of a word, acknowledges the possibility of other non-physical meanings of the word and acknowledges that it is possible that Allah has assigned a meaning to this word of which He has made most humans unaware.

The key is internal consistency. We can’t hold two contradictory beliefs at the same time. Whether we make tafweed or ta’wil it has to be internally consistent. It is for this reason that tanzih is an extremely important principle. If the karramiyyah or the mujassimah hadn’t reared their ugly heads into Islamic history, none of the above would have been necessary and we would have lived as the earliest Muslims lived.

Dawud says: The errors were many and we could go into them but suffice it to say is they decided to see the world and Islam through the eyes of the philosophers and this was the door that the Christians would utilize in driving home the message of the Trinity.

No arguments about what other sects believed. Sunni kalam was merely a defense against them, regardless of whether or not they were influenced by the Greeks.

Dawud says: The classic mistake is obvious: limiting Allah to the confines of human intellect when Allah is truly beyond all that the word ‘infinite’ could mean.

Be clear by what you mean by this. A better way of saying this would be to say that the mind can grasp neither the “dhat” of Allah, nor his “sifat.” (I have used the Arabic “dhat” instead of “essence,” because “essence” does not quite mean “dhat”).

However, using the intellect to (1) establish what our aqidah is in the first place by deriving it from the source texts and (2) to defeat heresies, is fundamentally different from subjecting Allah’s dhat and sifat to the intellect. And that is precisely the basis of my argument in my previous comment, though it might not be quite obvious.

Dawud says: By distorting the meanings of the phrases Life/Spirit and Word/Speech/Knowledge the Christians explained the Trinity in a way not all too different from the Ahlul Kalam.

Again, this is a perhaps reference to the heresies, not to Sunni Kalam. Sunni Kalam is far from junk like this.

Dawud says: One can get a feel that Ahlul Kalam would indeed battle it out and at times do so successfully however, it must be noted that it was a battle that need not fighting.

Then how would you explain the fact that Sayyiduna Rasulallah sallallahu alaihi wasallam readied himself for a debate with the Christians of Najran? Or why does the Quran refute Christian ideas? If it is a battle that needs no fighting then the Rasul would not have done it, and neither would the Quran do it. And what is Kalam if it isn’t using reason and revelation against all heresy?

Dawud says: In a sense, the entire historical exercise was one that would prove to be an intellectual testimony to the brilliance of the Quran; as if Allah is telling us the dangers and weaknesses of the human mind. And in a sense we can understand that kalam failed the Christians because it failed the Muslims (as was discussed in Light upon Light).

I’m surprised to find that your source for this claim is another heretic! How convenient. This is someone who believes that created things have intrinsic properties, which is exactly the belief of the pagans. If that isn’t forbidden Kalam then what is?

If you want I could go into a detailed historical exposition of the beliefs of the pagans, but for now I think I will desist.

Dawud says: But turning to Kalam we can see its dangers easily.

Yes, kalam is dangerous. But not for the reasons you have mentioned. It’s dangerous because not many people can understand the arguments.

As I mentioned before, Sunni kalam battles heresies. The arguments presented by a sect may be convoluted in the first place. Trying to dissect those arguments is an extremely difficult process. So for those who attempt to read such arguments and their refutations prior to proper training, kalam is indeed dangerous.

This is why it’s the domain of the `ulema, not average Joes.

Dawud says: The greatest problem with the people of kalam, the philosophers and the Christians in their explanations is that they try to make the abstract un-abstract: exactly what it is not.

I think you are saying that Allah is at the level of the abstract, and what the Christians did was to make the “abstract concept” of Allah unabstract.

So the crux is this: Christians are saying that Allah is un-abstract. You’re saying that Allah is abstract.

Both statements are problematic.

Something that is un-abstract exists in the realm of our direct sensorial experience. And since Allah is beyond the sensorial realm He subhanahu wa ta’ala is not “un-abstract.” I think that much is clear.

Something that is abstract exists at the level of the mind. The “abstract” is nothing but a generalization of particulars. What we experience in the sensorial realm can be generalized into abstract concepts in the mind. The source of abstractions is our sensorial experience. Thus, how can Allah be “abstract” if we haven’t seen, heard or in any sensorial way, experienced Him? This is precisely against the principle of tanzih as expounded by the ayah: laysaka mithlihi shay’ – there is nothing like unto Him.

For example, take at the color red. In the physical world the color red exists as an attribute of different objects. You never find the color red existing on its own. You will always find the color red existing as an attribute of some object. However, after looking at a number of different objects that are red in color, we can begin to think of red separately, i.e. not as an attribute of any object. However, this “separation” of the color red from its objects only exists in the mind. The red color does not exist on its own. This is an example of an “abstraction.” As is obvious, the source of this abstraction is our senses, that is, that we needed to be able to look at red objects to think of red as a separate idea. The implication here is that if someone says that Allah is “abstract” he must have seen, heard or experienced Allah in a sensorial manner. But we know that this is impossible for Allah. Since we cannot see Allah, (or hear Him or experience Him any sensorial way) we cannot “abstractize” Him, either. Thus it is also wrong to say that “Allah is abstract.” Allah is not abstract and He is not unabstract.

Please be careful of what you say.

Dawud says: One can marvel at the heavens and earth, the concepts of justice, power, hearing and seeing and contemplate on the miraculous nature of these concepts and get a feel of the majesty of Allah; but how can one focus one understand Allah’s Majesty through his imagination and desires?

By the apparent claim of Allah being abstract, you have done precisely what you are admonishing against here. Contradiction, I daresay?

Dawud says: The question that really irks a believer is how do these people plan on meeting Allah? What if Allah is not as they imagined?

Again, Kalam seeks to do just that, that is, to remove our understanding of Him from our feeble “imaginations.” He is Pure from any conception that someone might attribute to Him!

Dawud says: It may be that in order for us to comprehend Allah (in the Akhirah) we will need not 5 but 5000 senses.

Again, you’re just too loose with your words. Allah is beyond the sensorial realm. Even if we had a million senses we still wouldn’t comprehend Him because He does not resemble creation and only creation can be experienced via the senses. As far as seeing Allah in the Aakhira is concerned, it’s not a matter of the number of senses. It’s a matter of Allah creating the ability with human beings for them to be able to see Him without Him being at a distance, in a direction or having a form.

Dawud says: This alienates Islam from the soul to an area of thought alone, a place where Islam is less than a mental exercise than a relief to the soul.

The purpose of kalam is not primarily to soothe. It’s purpose is to defend Islam from heresies. Arabic grammar also does not do much for soothing the soul, but does that make grammar a bad thing, or even make it unimportant?

Dawud says: The key point that one must realize is that the Quran is a book free from errors and therefore is untouchable by Shaytaan.

And this is precisely the reason why the Sunnis say that the Quran cannot contradict itself. And if it cannot contract itself, then any two verses of the Quran cannot have mutually contradictory meanings. And if any two verses cannot have mutually contradictory meanings then those verses that can have more than one meaning either should be left alone or should be interpreted.

Dawud says: The whole aspect of accepting there is something greater than us is to not diminish that greater into lesser and that is why as much as logic can recognize there is something far greater than us; it cannot quantify that greatness as even the simplest logic understands it to be unmatched.

Quantification of Allah is illogical. So please don’t tarnish the good name of logic with your simplistic notions of it.

A special comment from Sheikh Abu Adam:

Dawud Israel says: Ibn Kullab would explain things in an even more difficult way saying, God’s attributes are “of his essence, neither God nor other than him” and so he attempts to imply something similar to that of the Christian explanation of the Trinity placing an aspect of God at equal level as God Himself (or making less of God’s existence)-for this reason the Mutazili refer to Ibn Kullab as a pseudo-Christian. And it was this same phrase of Ibn Kullab that was used by Christians. The classic mistake is obvious: limiting Allah to the confines of human intellect when Allah is truly beyond all that the word ‘infinite’ could mean.

Answer: The meaning of the phrase is that Allah’s attributes are not Him Himself nor are they other than Him, i.e. you cannot say that “Allah is Power,” or “is Knowledge.” Rather we say that Allah is attributed with power and attributed with knowledge. You also do not say that they are other than Him, because they are not separate from Him, because He is one in the absolute sense and not something divisible, or “many”. Rather we say that Allah is One, and that He has attributes that are not other than Him. This is unlike humans, for their attributes are separable. For example, if I lost all of my knowledge, I would still exist. This is not true of Allah, because what has no knowledge is not God. The purpose of this phrase is to refute the accusation of the Mu`tazilah that to say that Allah has attributes is to say that Allah is many. The Mu`tazilah did not accuse Ibn Kullab of being pseudo-Christian for saying “Allah’s attributes are not Him Himself nor are they other than Him” but for saying that Allah has attributes. They accused anyone who says that Allah has attributes, such as knowledge, to be a musħrik. Is it peculiar to sunni Kalam scholars to say that Allah has attributes??? To this accusation Ibn Kullaab answered that saying that Allah has attributes does not mean that Allah is many, rather “we say that Allah’s attributes are not Him Himself nor are they other than Him.”

Authored by Ibn Mazhar. Checking, revision, additions and approval by Sheikh Abu Adam al Naruiji.


Wahhabi Contention: How are “Ar Rahmanu `alal `arsh istawa” and “Laysaka mithlihi shay`” different?

June 1, 2008

Wahabi contention: “It is very UN-scientific to take the ayah about Allah not resembling creation at face value and NOT take the ayah about istiwaa at face value. Why is one different from the other?”

Sunni Response: It is not clear to me what you mean by “face value”, but at least I will explain the difference between the two.

First of all, the basic principle for understanding the ayahs of the Quran and Hadiths of the Prophet is that they be taken at their most absolute, literal and apparent meanings, unless there is a proof why they shouldn’t. Such proofs would be other ayahs, other hadiths, and ijmaa, while mere preference is not acceptable for this. Sorting out these issues is the main purpose of Usul-al-Fiqh, the methodology for knowing commandments from the Quran and the Sunnah. The rational purpose of this rule of requiring a proof, as mentioned, is to avoid people interpreting the scriptures any way they like, while recognizing that not everything in the Quran can be understood literally, because that would lead to one ayah contradicting another in meaning.

If the rule of requiring proof for saying that an ayah should not be taken literally was not correct, then there would be no purpose in sending a prophet, because his message would have been open to any interpretation desired. For example, one time my non-Muslim friend watched this woman praying as Imam for Jumu`ah prayer in the US. She said, “Well, this is her interpretation,” implying that the woman is free to interpret from the scriptures that a woman can lead Jumu`ah prayer. I told her, “Interpretation has to have rules, if you were allowed to make any interpretation, then what would be the point in sending a prophet?” She could not answer.

In short, one’s understanding of a statement in the Quran should be apparent, unless there is a proof of otherwise from other texts, or ijma.

Having said that, the difference between “He does not resemble anything,” and “istawa” is that the first denies the resemblance of anything to Allah. The latter, on the other hand affirms “istawa”. To be consistent then, we need to affirm istawa without affirming resemblance to something physical, because created things are physical, i.e. limited and quantitative, and therefore in need of Allah to create them. That is why the Salaf said “istawa bi-laa kayf,” “istawa without a how”, but they did not say “He does not resemble His creation – without a how.” The first statement is an affirmation followed by a partial negation, the second statement is clearly nonsense.

This should be enough, but if you want the details……

Understanding “He does not resemble anything”

When we want to understand “He does not resemble anything,” we need to understand what meanings and senses are exclusive to creation. We also need to identify the meanings and senses that are shared in created attributes, so that we do not end up believing that Allah is different from His creation in the same sense as created things are different from each other only. After all, all created things are different from each other in some more or less obvious or subtle senses, even if it be only time or location. If we do not pay attention to this, we will end up saying that the meaning of the ayah is “everything is different from everything else,” and that would be to make it meaningless, which is clearly not allowed. After all, the statement addresses an attribute of Allah.

Before we do this, let it be clear that “He does not resemble anything,” is an attribute that negates something from Allah, which is different from an affirmation, such as “istawa” because we are forbidden from pondering meanings that are affirmed to Allah. We are not forbidden from pondering about creation, however, so there is nothing wrong with identifying what meanings and senses are present in creation that Allah is clearly not attributed with. Such meanings would be those that necessitate having a creator. Such pondering is encouraged in the Quran, such as in:

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 `Imraan, 190)

أَفَلاَ يَنظُرُونَ إِلَى ٱلإِبْلِ كَيْفَ خُلِقَتْ
Meaning: “What, do they not consider how the camel was created?”

Based on this, when we look at creation, we notice that created things have quantities and limits, i.e. they have a physical measure. We also notice that they come in different shapes, types and resemblances in terms of these quantities and limits. They do not necessarily resemble each other in all aspects, for they have different time limits, locations, attributes, etc, but their nature of being limited and quantitative is shared. So a chair, for example, is very different from a human being, but similar in some aspects, such as in having a weight and a volume.

From this observation, we know that Allah is not something limited, not something measurable or quantitative, because Allah is not merely different from creation in the way they are different from each other. He is completely different from creation, and not something measurable, limited or quantitative. Allah’s attributes are greater than that.

Note that even when we use the same word to refer to a created attribute as we use for an attribute of Allah, such as knowledge, then we know that this is completely different in meaning. Allah’s knowledge is not something limited. It is not in a location, such as a brain, unlike ours. It does not increase or decrease, unlike ours. Our knowledge is quantitative an divisible, His is not etc.

We can also say it this way; the world around us is full of entities with size, even though they differ in attributes such as shape, density and taste, etc. The kind, however, things with size, is the same for them all. Since Allah is not the same kind as creation, then He is not something with size, and is not in a place. Further to this, we can also say that since place is a creation, as it is something other than Allah, He is not in it, because He existed before it.

To clarify further the meaning of “He does not resemble anything,” take the proof of Abu Hanifah that you linked, which points out an absurdity to an atheist: “You cannot imagine one ship running without some one looking after its affairs. Yet you think that for this whole world, which runs exactly and precisely, there is no one who looks after it, and no one owns it?” Take also a look at the proof of Allah’s existence that Ash-Shafi`i presented: “The leaves of Toot (berries) are all but one. Each leaf tastes exactly the same. Insects, honey bees, cows, goats, and deer live off of it. After eating these the insects produce silk; bees produce honey; deer give musk (a special kind of scent), cows and goats deliver off-springs.” Maalik said it this way: “Difference in languages, difference in pitches of voice, difference in singing are proof that Allah (subhanahu wa ta`ala) exists!”

Such proofs are called arguments based on design, the order of creation, and they are also found in the Quran. The Quran does not have logically flawed proofs, so we can safely assume that they are valid. If you look carefully at these proof, and others like it, then you can detect what it means that Allah does not resemble His creation. This is because when you specify the attributes of creation that makes it so obvious that it needs a creator, then you can know what attributes the Creator does not have. You can know this, because Allah does not have a Creator.

The common denominator of all these proofs is that they give examples of how creations need physical specification for how they are to be. What kind? What location? What volume? What quantity? What size? What shape? How wide? What color? What taste? What temperature? What boundaries and limits? Where? How fast? Etc. All such attributes need specification. So in Abu Hanifah’s, for example, he proposes that the ship has goods (specification needed: what kind? how many? where?) that the ship keeps going back and forth (what direction, what speed? to and from where? what path?), etc.

Clearly such attributes need a creator, because they need to receive specification. This means that they have a beginning, because becoming specified needs a point in time. Clearly then, Allah is not something that physical specification applies to, so He is not a body, and therefore not in a place, because a body is what is in a place. The great scholar of the Salaf At-Tahaawi stated:

{Allah 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, like all created things}.

This same thing was stated by the most eloquent of all creation, as narrated by Muslim and Al-Bayhaqi:

اللهم أنت الْأَوَّلُ فَلَيْسَ قَبْلَكَ شَيْءٌ وَأَنْتَ الْآخِرُ فَلَيْسَ بَعْدَكَ شَيْءٌ وَأَنْتَ الظَّاهِرُ فَلَيْسَ فَوْقَكَ شَيْءٌ وَأَنْتَ الْبَاطِنُ فَلَيْسَ دُونَكَ شَيْءٌ
“O Allah, You are the First, so there is nothing before You, and You are the Last so there is nothing after You. You are Al-Thaahir so there is nothing above You. And You are Al-Baatin, 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.

Further to this point, consider what was narrated from Ahmad ibn Hanbal at the link you provided, where he made an example of the egg with a chick in it, saying: “There is an incredibly strong fort, it has no doors, there is no way to get in. In fact, there is not even a hole in it. From outside it glows like the moon and from inside it shimmers like gold. It is sealed from all sides, matter of fact it is air tight. Suddenly one of its doors breaks down, a living thing with eyes and ears, a beautiful looking animal appears yelling and wandering all over. So is not there a creator who made it possible for life to take place in this secured and closed fort? And is not this Creator better than humans? This Creator has no limit.” Note that he concluded based on his proof: “This Creator has no limit.”

Why one cannot say that “He does not resemble anything,” except in that He has a direction

Another difference between “He does not resemble anything,” and “istawa” is that the first is clear in meaning, while the second is not; “istawa” has many possible meanings in Arabic. To get agreement between the two is therefore easy, you understand “He does not resemble anything,” absolutely and literally, and say that the meaning of “istawa” is one of the meanings in Arabic that does not contradict with “He does not resemble anything.” So it does not have the meaning of Allah being in a place or direction, because that would mean He has a physical limit, and that would be to invalidate “He does not resemble anything”, and render it meaningless without a need.

Yet another reason why place or direction cannot be excluded from the literal “He does not resemble anything” is the explicit scriptural text mentioned earlier, namely that the Prophet said:

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-Thaahir so there is nothing above You. And You are Al-Baatin, so there is nothing below you.”

If there is nothing above Him and nothing below Him, then He is not in a place or direction, so if one believed istawa to have the meaning of Allah literally being in a place or direction, then one would have rendered the perfectly clear “He does not resemble anything” virtually meaningless, as all creation as we know it is in a place and direction by nature of being limited and quantitative. One would also have contradicted the perfectly clear “”You are Al-Thaahir so there is nothing above You. And You are Al-Baatin, so there is nothing below you.”

Note that this hadith is a praise of Aļļaah, and that His names and attributes are attributes of perfection and greatness. Being in a place or direction is not an attribute of perfection; being physically in a high place is not greatness, because if it was, then Tibet would better than Makkah. Moreover, being in a physical direction necessitates having a limit. The Prophet then, made it clear in this ĥadiitħ that Allah’s aboveness mentioned in other texts is not one of direction.

Finally, by claiming that “istawa” means being physically above, one would have affirmed a limit to the creator and thereby claimed it possible for limited things to exist without a creator. By doing this one would have contradicted the proofs for Allah’s existence, because one would no longer be able to say that nothing limited can exist without a creator. One would also have insulted Allah by attributing to Him a limit.

How to deal with the meaning of “istawa”

The best solution then, is that one simply says “istawa” to affirm the attribute and then “without a how” to comply with “He does not resemble anything”. This way one is left with the various possible Arabic meanings of “istawa” that are not physical in meaning, and one has not contradicted these other very clear and specific texts (and a number of others). In other words, one has avoided restricting the literal meaning of “He does not resemble anything” and “O Allah, You are Al-Thaahir so there is nothing above You. And You are Al-Baatin, so there is nothing below you.” Last, but not least, one has also avoided affirming a limit to Allah which would contradict this aayah, among many others:

اللَّهُ لا إِلَهَ إِلا هُوَ لَهُ الْأَسْمَاءُ الْحُسْنَى
Meaning “There is no god but Him, He has the best names.” (Taahaa, 8 )

One does not necessarily, however, assign any specific one of those non-physical meanings to “istawa”, because it is not clear in the Arabic language which one is meant, and the meaning is not well known. For this reason, most of the Salaf left it at saying “istawa without a how,” and usually did not interpret the non-physical meaning left after saying “without a how”. This was for fear of speaking about Allah without a proof, and ending up assigning a meaning that was not meant, thereby denying the one that was actually meant, or ta`tiil, as is it called in Arabic.

Note that when the Salaf said “istawa bi-laa kayf,” they did not mean “without knowing the physical how that is really there,” as some think. Literally, bi-laa kayf means, “bi-(with) laa (categorically no) kayf (how.)” Since they knew Arabic very well, and knew Allah, this was all they needed to say as it made it clear that Allah is not something physical or temporal. This is not the case with most people today. And there is nothing wrong also in detailing what “kayf” means, because the great scholar of the Salaf At-Tahaawiy stated:

{Allah 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 Allah 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.

I hope I have managed to make it clear now that denying istawa to be a physical attribute does not mean denying istawa. If you want more on this, and to prevent this dialogue to degenerate into an explanation of every scripture that might be taken to be physical in meaning, you can look at Ibn Al-Jawzi’s “Daf’ Shubah al-Tashbhi”, which has been translated to English under the name “The Attributes of God”. I haven’t seen the translation myself, but here are a couple of quotes I have translated for you myself from the Arabic version: “And they (the corrupt Hanbalis) made Allah’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-Jawzi is saying that in no way shape or form is the denial of physical direction and physical aboveness a denial of an aboveness that is not physical. Physical aboveness is refuted, however, as it is a limited aboveness, because it involves at least one physical limit. For example, if someone says that Allah is physically above the `Arsh (throne), then he is saying that Allah has a limit adjacent to the throne.

Then Ibn Al-Jawziyy narrated from Ahmad ibn Hanbal that he said: “istawa is an attribute no doubt, and it does not mean purpose or control,” and that, “Ahmad refuted that Allah should have a direction, because directions cannot be without something other than them,” i.e. something physical to be in a direction. Then Ibn Al-Jawzi said, “Since the claim that Allah has a direction is false, then it is clear that He is not in a place.” Then he clarified this by saying “because Allah is not surrounded by anything, and He does not have attributes with a beginning.”

Note, however, that when some later scholars saw the activities of deviants trying to use the silence of the scholars regarding istawa in order to spread the falsehood that Allah is physical, some of them, or more of them, decided to mention specific non-physical meanings, such as control. This happened also to some extent among the Salaf. This was to calm the minds of the uneducated (who were far from the mindset and linguistic capability of the Companions of the Prophet) so that they would not keep thinking about this issue. They did this because, although most of them felt they had no certain knowledge of the specific meaning of istawa, and that the safest approach is to keep silent when one does not have certain knowledge of such a matter, this was considered a minor concern compared to the danger of having people believing Allah to be something in a place or a direction.

Note also that whether the non-physical meaning of scripture texts that have apparent physical meanings are known or not, is sometimes a matter of disagreement. So for example, many scholars interpreted the literally translated, “He is with you wherever you are,” as “in the sense of knowledge,” I.e. Allah knows about you, and what you do, wherever you are. Clearly this aayah is also not literally meant.

The Quran and hadith texts are full of such figurative expressions, and they are widely known. They did not cause confusion among the Companions, simply because they knew that Allah is not limited, as He does not have a Creator. They knew their Creator in other words, so physical meanings did not even enter their minds, just like when you heard the AT&T commercial “reach out and touch someone,” you knew that it was not literally meant, because you know what a telephone is.

Author: Shaykh Abu Adam al Naruiji


Wahhabi Contentions: (1) Asharism and Sufism were Separate and Merged and (2) Calling to Other Than Allah is Shirk

May 25, 2008

Question:

assalamu ‘alaykum

Yasir Qadi says:

“The permissibility to make du`a to the dead is of course an import of (late) Sufism, and not pure Ash`ari thought. Although, of course, in our times the two movements (which, once upon a time, were distinct and separate), are now one. I have written and am presently writing a number of papers on the merging of these two movements. Basically, this issue goes back to the Ash`ari definition of ilah, which, as al-Razi and others state, means ‘the one who can independently create?’ Hence, if you don’t believe your dead Shaykh can create life or give you sustenance himself, but rather does so by a power given to him by Allah, this would not be shirk according to that definition. As we proved in our class ‘Light of Guidance,’ the Arabs of old also believe their idols were given powers by Allah, and did not claim they had independent powers. Additionally, our definition of shirk is taken from the Quran, and is ‘to give the rights of Allah to other than Allah,’ and du`a is a sole right of Allah. But all of this is a separate topic, meant for another article!”

Before Yasir Qadi posts his articles, my question is: Were the Sufis really a ‘separate’ movement than the Ash`aris. Is such an idea being spread out by the so called ‘Maliki-in-Fiqh-Salafi-in-Creed’ scholars of Mauritania? I am not aware of such from the Islamic Sunni institutions of Morocco.

jazak Allahi khayr

Answer:

Yasir Qadi is merely a demagogue that uses rhetorical tricks rather than proofs, and knows how to manipulate his audience with a shipload of hidden assumptions. He likes to use words like “obviously,” “of course,” “everybody that is reasonable knows,” “we have proved elsewhere,” or “will prove in the future,” and the like, to dodge the fact that he cannot prove what he is saying. (I have highlighted them below for your amusement). And of course he is far too busy to engage in a proper dialogue. I have made some brief comments on what he said below:

Yasir Qadi says: The permissibility to make du`a to the dead is of course an import of (late) Sufism and not pure Ash`ari thought;

The issue here is what does he mean by du`a? If he means prayer, then no Muslim will disagree that it is kufr to make du`a to the dead. If, however, the meaning of du`a here is simply calling, without any sense of worship to the person called, then this is another matter.

Should someone claim that every du’a is worship then how would they understand the following verse in the Holy Qur’an:

لاَّ تَجْعَلُواْ دُعَآءَ الرَّسُولِ بَيْنَكُمْ كَدُعَآءِ بَعْضِكُمْ بَعْضاً
“Make not the addressing (du’a’) of the Prophet among you like your addressing one another…”

So basically we cannot interpret du`a to mean worship in every context. A call without worshiping the called upon is just a call, and it is not shirk. Moreover, calling a person who has died is done every day in every single one of the 5 daily prayers, where a Muslim says, “Ya Ayyuhan-Nabi,” i.e. “O Prophet!” Clearly then, calling a person who has died is not an import of late Sufism.

Yasir Qadi says: Although, of course, in our times the two movements (which, once upon a time, were distinct and separate), are now one. I have written and am presently writing a number of papers on the merging of these two movements.

Wahabism is a movement. It started about 200 years ago under the guidance of the books of Ibn Taymiyyah and Ibn Al-Qayyim, who were both chief heretics in their time. By playing the games of the Batiniyyah sects, hiding and lying about their real beliefs, they managed to preserve their necks, though there were a few close calls.

The Ash`ari school is not a movement, it is the school of the Sunni belief system. Its name comes from Abu Al-Hasan Al-Ash`ari, not because he made up the school’s belief, but because he defended, detailed and systematized the belief of Sunnis to the extent that most Sunni scholars after him cannot but admit that he is their imam. That is, either him, or Abu Mansur Al-Maturidi, who did the same thing as Ash`ari did at approximately the same time, but in another location.

Likewise Sufism has been around since the beginning, whether it went by that name or not. Sufism is simply the art of following Sunni Islam, while trying to distance oneself from the desires and vanities of this life. It is the science of applying Islam to one’s life to the fullest extent, especially on the inside.

Yasir Qadi says: Basically, this issue goes back to the Ash`ari definition of ilah, which, as al-Razi and others state, means ‘the one who can independently create’. Hence, if you don’t believe your dead Shaykh can create life or give you sustenance himself, but rather does so by a power given to him by Allah, this would not be shirk according to that definition.

This is a fallacious argument. How does saying that the word ‘ilah’ means ‘the one who can independently create’ also mean that something other than Allah can create? The definition does not say that there can be a ‘dependent creator.’ It simply says that Allah creates independently of anything or anyone. In fact, when you say that Allah creates independently, you are saying that Allah does not create through an agent, so it is implied that no one and nothing other than Allah creates, i.e. it is not possible that someone be given a power to create.

A person who believes that his dead Shaykh can create life and give sustenance by a power given to him by Allah is indeed a blasphemer. No Muslim believes that, and Sunni Sufis certainly do not believe that. Ash`aris do not believe that other than Allah can create. There is only one creator.

Note that by “create” we mean to bring into existence, or to have independent influence on events.

Yasir Qadi says: As we proved in our class ‘Light of Guidance’, the Arabs of old also believe their idols were given powers by Allah, and did not claim they had independent powers. Additionally, our definition of shirk is taken from the Quran, and is ‘to give the rights of Allah to other than Allah’, and du`a is a sole right of Allah. But all of this is a separate topic, meant for another article!

The du`a that is prayer, i.e. worship, is only for Allah. However, merely calling is not only for Allah. As usual the Wahabis have a great preoccupation with words, with an incredible blindness to the ranges of meaning behind them.

His definition of shirk is not very clear. What does he mean by ‘give the rights?’ For example, if I give Zakaat to an official collector, then it is Allah’s right that this money is given to the poor. So if the collector takes the money for himself (and he is rich), has he committed shirk according to Yasir? It is a strange definition.

A better definition of shirk is ‘to attribute to Allah a partner, part or a likeness to creation.’ This is because the belief in Allah’s Oneness is the belief that ‘He does not have a partner, part or a likeness to creation.’

Questioner says: Before Yasir Qadi posts his articles, my question is: Were the Sufis really a “separate” movement than the Ash’aris. Is such an idea being spread out by the so called ‘Maliki-in Fiqh-Salafi-in-Creed’ scholars of Mauritania? I am not aware of such from the Islamic Sunni institutions of Morocco.

Sufism is really just a branch of the Islamic sciences that a person focuses more or less on. It is not really a movement, although there are of course Sufi movements. So there is no separation between Sufism and Ash`arism. However, like in all the sciences, some scholars are more famous for one thing than the other. Then we also find those unique individuals that master them all. For example Al-Qushayri is a famous imam of both Ash`ari creed and Sufism.

The problem that Wahabis have with merely calling the name of a dead person comes from their belief that Allah is a kind of creature. This makes it difficult for them to come up with a way of thinking of themselves as monotheists. After all, since what they worship and call Allah (but isn’t actually Allah), is simply another physical thing, all physical things become potential rivals. This leads to paranoid delusions, such as thinking that calling the name of a dead person is shirk.

For a Muslim, however, the basis for monotheism is clear. It is the belief that Allah does not have a partner, parts or a likeness to creation. As long as one believes this, one has not committed shirk by calling a dead person, because one does not believe that the dead person has any power to create at all, but is merely a creation, whose calling may or may not correlate with a desired effect created by Allah.

Authored by Shaykh Abu Adam al Naruiji


Wahhabi Contention: Asharis contradict themselves by affirming some attributes and not affirming other attributes

May 6, 2008

Wahhabi Contention: The Asharis and Maturidis contradict themselves. They affirm for Allah Life, Power, Will, Knowledge, Speech, Hearing and Sight, while making Ta’wil of Istiwa’, Nuzul, Maji’, Ityan, Wajh, Yad, Saq, Qadam, Janb, ‘Ain, and relocation in (various) levels. The basic rule with regards to the attributes is one, so if you affirm the seven attributes, what prevents you from affirming the rest? What is the difference? This is nothing less than a contradiction.

Sunni Response: There is no contradiction. Asharis do not deny any attribute that Allah has affirmed in the Quran, or that are established by flawless hadiths. What they do is believe that no attribute of Allah is like that of creation, because “He does not resemble anything.” This means that “yad” does not mean a physical hand, but something else in agreement with the Arabic language, and that nuzuul does not mean physical descent, but something else in agreement with the Arabic language. This is because Allah is not like creation, and limbs, location and movement are attributes of created things. All of Allah’s attributes are understood in this way in the Ashari school, including Life, Power, Will, Knowledge, Speech, Hearing and Sight, so there is no contradiction. The rule is to affirm attributes established unequivocally, and to deny that they have any resemblance to creation. To be clear: this is not denial of the attributes, but of their resemblance to creation.

The people who contradict themselves are those who say, for example, that “nuzuul” involves movement, because this contradicts with “He does not resemble anything.” Movement is a created attribute, because it has a beginning and needs specification. That is, it did not exist, and then it existed, so it needs a creator. Moreover, it needs a specification of “from where to where,” and “at what speed.” Clearly then, Allah is not attributed with movement, because his attributes are not created.

Moreover, to believe that Allah moves to the sky of this world, is to believe that Allah becomes inside the creation, because this is below the seven skies. This is blasphemy by consensus of all Muslims.

Finally, it has been established in a hadith narrated by Ibn Hibbaan and authenticated by Al-Asqalani (Fath-al-Baari, V.13/P.411) that the Prophet said:

“مَا السَّمَاوَات السَّبْع مَعَ الْكُرْسِيّ إِلاّ كَحَلْقَةٍ مُلْقَاة بِأَرْضٍ فَلاة وَفَضْل الْعَرْش عَلَى الْكُرْسِيّ كَفَضْلِ الْفَلاة عَلَى الْحَلْقَة””

The Seven Skies compared to the Kursiy is like a ring thrown on the ground in a desert, and the size of the Arsh compared to the Kursiy is like the size of the desert compared to the ring.”

Accordingly, if someone believes Allah descends physically, then he is saying that Allah is like a ring in the desert compared to the Kursiy, or that He crashes the skies on every descent, or that He is like a cloud passing through them. Can there be any doubt that all of this is blasphemy?

Author: Shaykh Abu Adam al Naruiji