Deviant Contention: There is a flaw in the proof you presented for the existence of Allah.

May 24, 2008

as salam `alaykum

A few days ago, a person posted an objection under the “The Foundations of Religion” article. Hereunder is the response to it. I took the liberty of changing the wording of the question a little bit so that the question becomes clear.

wa `alaykum salam

Ibn Mazhar

The author said: Basically this says that, if an eternal amount of time has been concluded then eternity has come to an end, which, I think, is wrong.

Here’s why:

Visualize the eternity (infinite spectrum of time) as the infinite real number line. Now suppose we are at number 8, which represents some point in time, say the present. There is an infinite amount of time, or numbers in this case, prior to the number 8 (namely from minus infinity to 8). Does it mean that the number line has come to a stop? No. There still is an infinite amount of time or numbers in this case, in front of 8 (namely 8 to positive infinity).

Answer: Here is the first problem:

The author said:Visualize the eternity as the infinite real number line.”

Your proposal falls apart already here. Infinity cannot be visualized, because visualizing it would take an infinite amount of time. Truly visualizing it would never be achieved, which is exactly the point we have made. You cannot reach true infinity. It is because infinity cannot be reached that we say that the real countable events that took place before we existed today must be a limited number.

For example, imagine yourself riding on this line, starting at 8 and going backwards to the beginning of that line and back. You cannot ever finish this ride even backwards if it was infinite.

The author said: “Now suppose we are at number 8.”

Here there are at least two problems: you are assuming you have reached a number after an infinite number of events. This cannot be because they could never have finished. You cannot finish an infinite amount of events before reaching a particular event, be it 8 or any other number. That is why the real events that took place before our existence must be limited.

Another problem with the idea is that the number line in mathematics cannot represent time. It was not designed for that. The number line simply means that any time a mathematician mentions a larger or smaller number than another number; another mathematician can mention a larger or smaller number than those. This is as long as there is life left in them, for even this counting activity ends with the end of the mathematicians counting. The number line does not represent time; it does not prove anything in itself.

Here is another substantial problem with your proposition:

The author said:There is an infinite amount of time prior to the number 8 (namely from minus infinity to 8).”

Remember that we are talking about real countable events. Real events cannot be counted as minus, because a negative number cannot represent something existing, i.e. you cannot say that a “minus event” happened. In a subtle way you have shown our point, because on the number line countable events start at “1”, and cannot be negative. In other words, when you choose the number “8”, then you are saying that only “8” events have taken place before we are here today. “8” events cannot be infinite, because “8” is not equal to infinity. What you are saying is that “8” real events are equal to an infinite number of real events, which is clearly false.

Then the author proposed that after reaching “8” events: Does it mean number line has come to a stop? No. There still is an infinite amount of time or numbers in this case, in front of 8 (namely 8 to positive infinity).”

When we say that there were a limited number of events, namely “8,” in this case, that have taken place, then we can accept that it can continue after that and never end as long as the Creator has willed it. We cannot accept, however, and no rational being can, that “8” past events are equal to infinite past events!

The author said: If there were a mathematically rigorous proof for the existence of God, none would be happier than me. But this particular proof is not one of them.”

My response is that then you should use your mental facilities to defend the proof, not attack it with imaginary evidences. The proof is rock solid and has withstood the test of time.

Authored by Shaykh Abu Adam al Naruiji

The Foundations of the Religion

May 19, 2008


If I am ever asked about what makes Islam different from any other religion, I will always answer that Islam is the religion of the sound mind; there is no contradiction between the Islamic faith and sound reasoning. This means that the core religious beliefs and methodology of knowing the religious judgment on human actions can be defended by reason alone, without referring to scriptures. It also means that there is nothing in the teachings in the religion that contradicts sound reasoning, although not everything in the religion can be known by reason alone (such as knowing how and when to pray).

In other words, Islam is not founded on mysticism, or on the “take it or leave it, this is faith, not logic” approach one finds in other religions. There is no separation of logic and faith in Islam.

When the scholars of Islam spoke of the knowledge of foundations (usul in Arabic) they meant either the foundations of the religion (the Islamic belief) or the foundations of fiqh (rules of the religion), or sometimes both. The foundations of the religion are the Islamic beliefs. The foundations differ from the branches (furu’), which are the detailed questions pertaining to the religion’s judgment on the actions of humans (i.e. fiqh).

Sound reason, the foundations of the religion, the foundations of fiqh and the branches of fiqh are connected as follows: First, it is by sound reason we know that God exists, is one, without a partner or an equal, and is attributed only with attributes of perfection. Second, it is by sound reason that a prophetic miracle becomes known as an irrefutable proof of prophethood. Third, it is by sound reason we can establish that Prophet Muhammad had miracles and other prophetic attributes. For these three reasons, the scholars all agreed that nothing in the scriptures is interpreted in a way that contradicts sound reasoning or sensory reality (such as square is different from a circle, 2 is different from 3). If this was not so, then it would be a denial of the faith itself. After all, if one denied certain knowledge of such facts, then one is denying certain knowledge of the Creator’s existence, prophethood and historical events. Fourth, it is by sound reason we can establish how to extract the judgments of the branches of fiqh from textual evidence; a scientific methodology for knowing these branches (i.e. what the judgment is on a particular human action). After all, it is by reason we can determine what a strong proof is and what is not. This article is dedicated to explaining these four points, but before that we need to explain the concept of sound reasoning.

Sound reasoning is the ability to know right from wrong, or to know what must be, can be and cannot be. No religious community is anywhere near as meticulous and fair minded as the Muslims with regards to the evidences of the correctness of their beliefs and practices. Muslims recognize different levels of probability regarding the validity of their texts, and other types of evidence. These can be viewed as:

1. Must be true

2. Most likely true

3. Likely true

4. Maybe true

5. Improbable

6. Impossible

This ranking is actually fundamental to any science, because these are the natural categories in which the sound mind views things. In the same manner, the acceptance of these categories is fundamental in Islamic scholarship, because denying the first and sixth leads to denying the human ability to achieve certainty at all and thereby the ability to believe.

The opposite of sound reasoning is sophistry, or extreme relativism, where a person claims to doubt everything, even sometimes his or her own existence. Since they thereby doubt the existence of proofs, arguing with them is a useless activity. Instead, they are handled by putting them in a situation where they are forced to admit the certain existence of sensory reality. An example of how this can be done, is saying to them, “I will not discuss anything with you until you admit that you are certain that we are speaking to one another.” A slightly harsher way is to throw some cold water in their face, and when they complain say, “you mean the water you are not certain exists thrown in the face you are not certain exists by a person you are not certain exists?”

How to categorize a claim as either certain or possible

Explaining what constitutes certainty is of fundamental importance, because this is the means by which belief and reason come together; a unique attribute of Islam. The fundamental beliefs of Muslims are all coupled with certainty in terms of their evidences, and from those the remaining beliefs and practices flow.

Certainty is of two kinds: (1) knowing by plain reason that a claim must be true or (2) that it is impossible. All other claims are considered possible, unless there is material evidence of otherwise. Here is an explanation of what is meant by “must be”, “impossible” and “possible”:

  • Must be: These are claims that sound reasoning cannot deny because their opposites are absurd. For example 1+1=2 must be true, because claiming otherwise would be absurd (in the case of natural numbers). It does not apply to scientific theories such as E=mc2, because it is conceivable that they could be proven wrong.
  • Impossible: These are claims that sound reasoning concludes to be absurd, such as the claim that 1+1=3, or that a part of a whole can be larger than the whole, or that there is a square circle. Another example of something impossible would be for a camel to enter through a needles eye, without a change in the size or shape of either party. Impossible claims refer to things that cannot ever be; they are mere verbal absurdities without a sound meaning. They are usually contradictions of terms (such as the idea of a perfectly round square) or meaning (such as the idea of 1+1=3 using natural numbers). Impossible things do not include claims that are naturally impossible, such as pigs flying or rivers flowing up a mountain. These are things that are known to be impossible only by knowing how the world works, and cannot be said to be impossible by reasoning alone.
  • Possible: possible means possible according to reason alone. It does not mean possible according to the normal course of events. This category includes all normal events, but also things that are naturally impossible, such as the examples of rivers flowing up mountains or pigs flying mentioned earlier. If something happens that is naturally impossible then this is an extraordinary event, such as feeding hundreds of people with one piece of bread, curing a leper by touching him, wakening the dead, walking on water, etc. i.e. events that are naturally impossible are possible, but completely extraordinary. This shows the highly open minded attitude learned Muslims have towards claims regarding worldly events, i.e. towards science.

Accepting these categories for sound reasoning is absolutely fundamental. Denying them implies denying the religion as a whole, because it means denying the possibility of knowing with certainty that Allah exists, that the Quran is an unperverted book and a miracle, and that Prophet Muhammad was Allah’s prophet and messenger. To claim that one only achieves knowledge through the revealed text is absurd, and a form of sophistry, because one must first establish that the text itself is reliable, and this can only be done through sound reasoning.

These categories are firmly established by the Quran, where the rhetorical question “`afalaa ta`qiluun” meaning, “Don’t you realize the truth?” or the like, is repeated throughout. This question is an appeal to be sound-minded.

Proving with certainty that God exists using common sense

Islam orders Muslims to believe in the fundamental creed of Islam without a fragment of doubt. At the same time, Allah (God, the Creator of this world) has stated in the Quran that He does not order someone to do something he is unable to do. Allah also named Himself Aţh-Ţhaahir, which means, “The One Who’s Existence is Obvious by Proofs.” It is clear then, that these fundamental beliefs can all be proven correct with certainty.

The basic Islamic belief belongs to the must be category of claims. This belief is that there is only one Creator and that he has no partner, part or equal in His attributes. A simple way to show this to be true is to first establish that this world needs a Creator to exist.

It is clear that this world is an incredibly organized place. Take for example the human cell and how it develops and is coordinated with the rest of the body, or the incredible precision of the solar system and the earth’s atmosphere. Sound reasoning tells us that these are not random events, and if they are not random, then they are organized, and organization requires someone’s specification and power to give specifications and realize them without exception.

To illustrate why this is true, let us say for example that you had left a room extremely messy, with clothes thrown on the floor, furniture upside down, and so on. Later you came back to the room and found it tidy and neat. Would you accept that this neatness came about without someone or something having done the work of tidying?

We conclude then that this world must have a Creator that is attributed with will and power. Don’t you see that if you leave a few trees standing by the riverside they will never become a raft if left alone? Or, that a ship will never sail straight to its destination in a hurricane without something steering it? If this is true for these simple events, then it is obviously true that someone controls the events of this universe, and that He is attributed with will, knowledge and power.

Proving with certainty that God is clear of imperfection, such as having a partner, using common sense.

The above argument is used by anyone that believes in the existence of a Creator, such as Christians and Jews. However, accepting this proof leads to other necessary conclusions as follows:

The one that has the power to create this incredible cosmos cannot be attributed with any weaknesses. This is clear, because the world we see around us shows us that His power, knowledge and will are absolutely unlimited. After all, He created all this from non-existence, i.e. the claim that He sleeps or gets sleepy is impossible. Such a claim is simply a failure to conceive existence beyond material existence, and drawing analogies between the Creator and the created. It is also a failure to realize the amazing detail and complexity of creation, which brings one to the natural conclusion that its Creator cannot be subject to any limits. This is what Muslims mean when they say “subhan-Allah”, i.e. Allah is clear of non-befitting attributes, i.e. flaws or weaknesses.

It must be true that the Creator does not have a partner. This is because having a partner indicates need; the need for help, the need to overpower or the need to make concessions. Having a need is a weakness, and the Creator must be free from that, i.e. it is impossible for Him to have a partner.

Since we said that this world must have a Creator (because it requires specification) then it must be true that the Creator does not have attributes that require specification, such as composition of parts, physical dimension or location, limits, boundaries, beginnings or ends, weaknesses, movement, gender, etc. In other words, He must be clear of temporal, physical or spatial attributes; attributes which the question “how?” apply to. This is because being in need of specification is a tremendous weakness in need of a Creator.

Only the Creator deserves to be worshiped. This is clear because He does not have a partner or a part, as established above, so everything else that exists must be merely a creation and completely submitted to the power of the Creator. Anyone that is fair minded will admit this. However, because of the atheist and agnostic propaganda people are exposed to, it is appropriate to present a more detailed proof as follows.

A mathematical proof that Allah exists and does not resemble His creation, supported by the reasoning of Prophet Ibrahim

Islam is greater than those religions that are taken on faith alone; as the scholars have shown in their answers to pagans and atheists throughout history. The proof of God’s existence is of a mathematical kind, however, rather than experimental. This is because Allah is not something one can observe. Rather, His existence and attributes are proven by the existence and attributes of created things. The atheist/materialist assertion that Allah does not exist, because He Himself is not directly/scientifically observable, is fallacious and silly. This is because anything scientifically observable cannot be the Creator, because He is not like His creation. It is as if they are saying, “if Allah exists, then He is something physical.”

One logical proof of Allah’s existence is:

Premise A: We exist here today.

Premise B: Before we existed there were a series of events, one after another leading up to our existence today. (The passing of such a series of events is what we call time, and measure in minutes, days, weeks and years.)

If one accepts Premise A, then one must also accept that the series of events in premise B must have a beginning. This must be, because if someone claims that an eternal amount of events had to be concluded before his existence, then he is saying that eternity came to an end, which is a contradiction in terms. It is like if someone said “this car will only get to its destination after its wheels have spun infinitely many times,” and then claimed that the car arrived at its destination. It is clear, however, that the car could never have gotten to its destination if an infinite number of spins was the condition for its arrival.

Those who claim that the world has no beginning are in fact saying that it is a prerequisite for tomorrow to arrive that an infinite number of events first take place. This is impossible, because infinity cannot end. Clearly then, the number of events that precedes our existence must have a limit.

In addition, since it is necessarily true that this series of events has a beginning, then it must also be that before this beginning there were no series of events (defined as anything with a beginning). If someone claimed otherwise, then they would end up with the same contradiction (saying that infinity came to an end). Accordingly, the claim that the world was created by random events is irrational.

Rather, there must be a Creator that gave the series of events existence, since it was nonexistent before it began. Moreover, since it is impossible for there to be any events before the existence of this series, then it must also be that the Creator is not attributed with events, i.e. with any attribute or action that has a beginning. This again means that the Creator does not resemble His creation, since all created attributes must have a beginning. Actually, having a beginning and being a creation is the same thing. This is because to create is to bring into existence, and everything with a beginning must have been brought into existence.

We know from the above, by mathematical precision and logical necessity, that the Creator exists and does not resemble His creation. From the fact that the world has a beginning, we have proven that it must have a creator. The name of this creator is Allah in Arabic. If someone asks, “Who created Allah?” we say Allah does not have a creator, and does not need one as He has no beginning. If someone then asks, “how can you accept that Allah has no beginning, while you do not accept that the world has no beginning?” The answer is that we have shown that the world has a beginning based on the fact that it changes (changes are events). We do not believe, however, that Allah changes. Rather, we believe He is One, and doesn’t change and has no beginning.

The fact that Allah does not resemble His creation can also be known by saying that since God’s existence must be (as shown above), then it cannot also be merely possible (since “must be” and “possible” are incompatible meanings – something cannot be both a must and a possibility at the same time). Therefore, He must be clear of any attribute that belongs to the possible category of things. For example, weakness, limits, boundaries and needs are attributes that may or may not have existence; their existence depends on them being created; their existence is a possibility, not a must. They need a Creator to specify their limits. We know that we need a Creator, because we know that our own attributes need specification. We know they need specification because they have limits, and limits must be specified. For example, if you pointed at a table in a room and said, “Who made it in that shape?” and someone answered, “No one, it is just there like that eternally!” Would you accept this? Of course not, because we know anything limited needs someone to specify it.

This is what Ibrahim (peace be upon him) meant when he said about the star in the sky “I don’t like those who go away.”(Surah 6, 76-78 ) Going away is an event and an obvious sign that the star is a creation; it needs someone to specify its time, and it makes blatantly obvious its possibility of non-existence. He also said about the sun, “This is bigger!” He was pointing out to his people that what is attributed with a limit (size needs a limit) is an event (something that has a beginning), because it needs someone to specify its size, like anything else with a size.

According to the proofs above, Allah is not attributed with limits, since He is not created. We can also safely conclude that Allah has a Will to specify events, and unlimited Power to create them. We can also conclude that He must have knowledge, because specification without knowledge is impossible. It is now easy to see also, that no event can take place without Him willing it. All of this is according to the teachings of Islam, and what all prophets taught, as is shown by the following statements in the Quran:

“هُوَ الأَوَّلُ”,

“He is Al-Awwal.” (Al-Hadid, 03).”

If translated literally, it would be “He is the First” i.e. He existed before everything else, and He was not preceded by non-existence or the existence of something else. It is a beginningless and necessary existence, and is not affected by anything, since it is not preceded by anything.

“وَخَلَقَ كُلَّ شَيْءٍ فَقَدَّرَهُ تَقْدِيرًا”

“And He created everything and predestined it.” (Al-Furqaan, 2)

If someone asked: If an event can be defined as an action that has a beginning and giving a series of events existence is an action with a beginning (and if it’s not, then what is it?), then how can one rationally conclude, based on the logic presented above, that the Creator is not attributed with events?

The answer to this is that we did not define events as actions having a beginning, but as “anything that has a beginning.” Actions may have a beginning, namely the actions of creation – as they all share this resemblance, or they may not, namely the actions of Allah.

Allah does not resemble His creation, so He is not an event or attributed with events. This is because to “create” is to “bring into existence,” and all events are therefore by definition created. As Allah’s attributes are not creations, they are not events. As Aţ-Tahaawi, an authority on the Islamic belief said:

ما زال بصفاته قديما قبل خلقه

“He is now as He always was, eternally with His attributes, before His creation came into being.”

Note that the actions of Allah Himself are not describable, as they are actions not bounded by time.They are actions without a how (bilaa kayf). Our lack of understanding is not a problem for the argument presented, because we have already shown, and we can definitively understand, that no action of Allah has a beginning. Then we stop there, and do not delve on it, or say “how?” There are things in creation that are beyond our grasp, such as the pattern of quarks, so what about the Creator, who does not resemble anything?An example of something beyond our grasp, is what the following aayah tells us:

“وَجَعَلَ الظُّلُمَاتِ وَالنُّورَ”

“Allah created darkness and light” (Al-‘Anˆaam, 1)

Yet the scholars mention other things as the first creation of Allah, such as water. Definitely water, or any other physical thing, without darkness or light is beyond our understanding, even beyond our imagination. That does not make it untrue, however, as verified in this aayah and the fact that they are events that thus need a Creator, as was established earlier.

Last but not least, in attempt to confuse, or out of confusion some may ask: “What if the world’s existence is cyclical?” Our answer to this is that cycles are still one cycle one after another, so they are events. Some may also ask, in an attempt to confuse: “Before Allah created this series of events, was He able to create another series or not?” Our answer to this is that this is a nonsensical question, because what we established was that there must be an event that is first, regardless of the number of series, or the number of worlds preceding the current one[1]. We also established that Allah’s actions are not events, so they are not described with a “before.” The Prophet said:

اللهم أنت الْأَوَّلُ فَلَيْسَ قَبْلَكَ شَيْءٌ وَأَنْتَ الْآخِرُ فَلَيْسَ بَعْدَكَ شَيْءٌ

“O Allah, You are the First, so there is nothing before you, and you are the Last so there is nothing after you. (Muslim, No. 2713)”

Now that we have shown with certainty that the Creator exists, is one without a partner, and that He is clear of created attributes, we will move on to the next fundamental part of the creed. Namely that Muhammad is God’s Prophet and Messenger.

Proving with certainty that Muhammad is God’s Prophet and Messenger

First, when we say that Muhammad is God’s Prophet and Messenger, we mean that he received a revelation from God ordering him to teach the true belief (Islam), and to bring changes in the rules and laws of previous messengers. Muslims believe that Jesus, Moses, John, Abraham and the other prophets were prophets of Islam. Their belief was the same, but the laws and rules they brought were sometimes different. This is because the needs of human kind have differed through the ages.

Second, nobody denies the historical existence of Prophet Muhammad, so there is no need to discuss this.

Third, as for the proof of his prophethood, this is done, like with all other prophets, by claiming prophethood while showing a miracle. By “miracle” Muslims mean an extraordinary event that nobody opposing the claim can imitate. If a person shows a clear miracle while claiming prophethood, and at the same time this person is known to never lie and to be of exceptional moral character and beauty, then the sound minded conclude that this person has God’s support in his claim. In other words, he must be a prophet.

Before becoming a Prophet, the Prophet Muhammad was known among his people as being sincere and trustworthy from the day he was born, as was admitted even by his adversaries. He was greatly loved for this. Never telling a lie is an essential characteristic of any prophet, before and after prophethood. That is why the king of Ethiopia at the time believed Prophet Muhammad. He heard from the Arabs that he was known never to have lied, and this king knew that if such a man claimed prophethood, then he could only be a prophet.

As for his miracles, they are many, but the most obvious is the Quran itself. The Quran has been preserved to the last letter, without any perversions or alterations for some 1400 years. This in itself is an extraordinary event, because no other book has been preserved in this way in human history. It is a miracle also, because the Prophet Muhammad affirmed by what was revealed to him that it would be preserved. Allah said in the Quran (Al-Hijr, 9)

إِنَّا نَحْنُ نَزَّلْنَا الذِّكْرَ وَإِنَّا لَهُ لَحَافِظُونَ

“Allah has revealed this remembrance that is the Quran, and He protects it.”

This is a miracle then, because this claim of future preservation associated with the Prophet, stated in the Quran, matches this already extraordinary preservation of 1400 years.

Added to this preservation is the fact that the Quran challenges anybody who opposes Prophet Muhammad’s claim to prophethood, to compose a Surah like any of its 114 Surahs. Allah said (Al-Baqarah, 23):

وَإِنْ كُنْتُمْ فِي رَيْبٍ مِمَّا نَزَّلْنَا عَلَى عَبْدِنَا فَأْتُوا بِسُورَةٍ مِنْ مِثْلِهِ

“If you are in doubt about what Allah has revealed to the Prophet, then bring a Surah like any of its Surahs in eloquence, if you can, but you will not be able.”

This challenge came despite the fact that the shortest Surah in the Qur’aan can be written on a single line on a piece of paper (Al-Kawtħar, 1-3):

إِنَّا أَعْطَيْنَاكَ الْكَوْثَرَ ^ فَصَلِّ لِرَبِّكَ وَانْحَرْ ^ إِنَّ شَانِئَكَ هُوَ الْأَبْتَرُ “

Yet, nobody succeeded in meeting this challenge among the Arabs, despite the Arabs pride in eloquence at the time, and the widespread occurrence of poetry competitions between tribes and individuals. In fact, nobody during these 1400 years has met this challenge. Moreover, if the challenge had been met during his time, then Prophet Muhammad would have lost his support. Add to that the fact that Prophet Muhammad  was unlettered and never took part in composing any poetry. If you think about it, this miracle also proves that nothing happens except by Allah’s Will.

In addition, the Quran contains many statements about things the Prophet could not have known through ordinary means, such as the description of what would happen to the breathing of a person if lifted up into the atmosphere (Al-An`aam, 125):

فَمَنْ يُرِدِ اللَّهُ أَنْ يَهدِيَهُ يَشْرَحْ صَدْرَهُ لِلإِسْلامِ وَمَنْ يُرِدْ أَنْ يُضِلَّهُ يَجْعَلْ صَدْرَهُ ضَيِّقًا حَرَجًا كَأَنَّمَا يَصَّعَّدُ فِي السَّمَاءِ

“Whoever Allah has willed to guide, He will open his heart to accept Islam, and whoever He has willed misguidance for, He will make his chest tight and narrow, as if he is ascending up in the sky.”

Another example was that once when the Prophet and his army were stuck in the desert without water, he filled empty jars with water by putting his hands in them. The water was eventually enough for an army of 1500 people to drink and wash.

Remember that these events happened in broad daylight in front of masses of people, and that these things were related to the next generation without interruption until this day. These are not stories found in books with unknown authors, or tales of single individuals in the darkness of history. Rather, when the Prophet performed his last pilgrimage he had more than 100,000 people with him and was the established ruler of the Arabian Peninsula. He was there when the Islamic civilization was founded and it has only grown since.

Now that we have established the creed of Islam as correct with certainty, what about the various rules and stories in the Islamic religion?

The Rational Approach to Islamic Texts

Since we have already established that Muhammad was a Prophet and Messenger of Allah, then all we have to do regarding the other teachings of Islam is to show that something was actually taught by the Prophet. These teachings are of 4 main sources:

1. The Quran.

2. Collections of statements about what the Prophet said, did or did not do in different circumstances. This is called hadith.

3. Collections of the sayings of scholars to establish what they all agreed upon.

4. Analogy in the absence of clear proofs from the 3 above sources. This is in rules and laws of the religion only.

5. I will only discuss the first two sources, since the third and forth are beyond the scope of this article.

Before discussing the two sources it should be known that both Quran and hadith is related from person to person in chains of narrators that extend from the Prophet to those who relate them today. For example, if you go to a properly qualified scholar today, he can tell you what his chains of narrators are for the Quran or hadiths all the way to the Prophet. He would say I was taught this by so and so, who was taught by so and so, etc. These chains are called chains of narrators.

As for the Quran, it has already been established that the Quran has been completely preserved. Masses of people memorized Quran around the Prophet. These masses taught other masses and so on until today, and there is still only one Quran; whether you test someone who has memorized in Mecca or someone who lives in China or Argentina. It is naturally impossible that any of these masses in the various generations could have gotten together to agree to fabricate, insert or remove something. That is why a plain statement in the Quran is a plain proof.

As for hadiths, these are ranked according to the probability of correctness, as I indicated at the beginning of this article. The highest-ranking hadiths are the ones that have been related in the same manner as the Quran. Such hadiths are automatically established as correct, without looking at who related them, because it would normally be impossible for them to be lies. These hadiths would be comparable to the news we have received that there was a war in Iraq. There is no sound reason to doubt this because it has been related by so many different sources in a way that does not allow for a conspiracy to lie, or a mistake. This is unlike, for example, moon travel. This incident is entirely based on what NASA says as an organization, and there were military and political motives to lie, so a conspiracy is a real possibility. According to the Islamic manner of relating hadith, the story of traveling to the moon is no more than possibly true. This is to illustrate how strict the science of hadith is.

The next level for hadiths is for those that were not related in the manner above. Rather, they were related by one or more individuals, who then related it on to others. These hadiths may be related from masses to masses today, but at some stage they were not. These hadiths can range from highly likely true to certainly untrue. Several factors are taken into consideration when ranking these, including:

What was said about the people in the chain of narrators? The existence of people accused of lying would weaken the chain tremendously, as would the existence of people with inaccurate memories, or a person with a known bias in a particular issue (if the hadith is on that issue), or people who are not well known. Disqualified or weak narrators are also identified by analyzing what was related from a particular person, by comparing that to what else he related, or what others related in similar matters.

What was the level of understanding of the different narrators with regard to the religion in general and scholarship?

Is there evidence of interruption in the chain of narrators? That is, are there narrators missing or indications that two of them never met, or were unlikely to have met?

Are there weaknesses in the text of the hadith? For example, does it narrow down the absolute meaning of a statement in the Quran or a hadith that was related like the Quran? Is it in disagreement with well-known and established rules of the religion? How does the text agree with hadiths related for the same or similar events? It is in answering these questions the truly great scholars, such as Abu Hanifah and Al-Shafi`i, are separated from the crowd. It is also in dealing with these issues that is the main concern of the foundations of fiqh and that caused the scholars to disagree, namely the topic of conflicting evidences.

Is there a claim in the text that belongs to the impossible category of claims (i.e. it is absurd)? If so, the hadith is either interpreted as a figure of speech or rejected. This is because a hadith that has an authentic and strong chain of narrators (but was not related in the manner of the Quran) only establishes a high likelihood of it being true, and a proof that shows high likelihood is much weaker than a proof that shows certainty (i.e. that something belongs to the must be or impossible category of claims).

All of the above factors are taken into consideration to rank a particular hadith, and the work of ranking them is a highly scientific task. When establishing what the meaning of a hadith is, one takes into consideration all the considerations of ranking. Moreover, they must be interpreted according to the most obvious meaning in Arabic unless there are other hadiths or statements in the Quran that indicate otherwise. In other words, before claiming that a statement is figurative one must have a solid proof for why this is so. This is done by showing that the literal meaning is absurd or inconsistent with other related texts from the Quran or hadith. This must be so, otherwise anybody could make any interpretation they desire and there would be no meaning in having a Prophet sent.

In the end, and putting it simply, what is considered to be obligatory for Muslims to believe, are the things that are established with certainty. Moreover, if it is concluded that the Prophet most likely prescribed something, then one must follow this, because it is improbable that he did not, and God ordered us to follow him. To illustrate, if a person that you trust at work came to you and said that the boss wants you to do so and so, do you ignore it, or do you naturally accept the task? Would it be reasonable to reject the command on the basis that it is not impossible for this to be wrong? Of course not. These rhetorical questions illustrate that accepting hadith with strong chains of narrators and a meaning that is free of inconsistencies (in view of the text of the Quran or other hadiths, or established rules of scholarship) is only reasonable and rejecting it would be unreasonable, and there is no doubt that it is better to be reasonable than unreasonable.

Figures of speech identified by sound reasoning in the Quran and hadiths

To finalize this article, one particular issue needs to be discussed in more detail: when to identify literal meanings as absurd, and therefore interpreting them as figures of speech.

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.

[1] The worlds that exist now are the only ones, and there was no world before them, but this is known by narrations from the Prophet, and the Quran, and not by logic alone. This is beyond the scope of this article.

Authored by Shaykh Abu Adam al Naruiji

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

May 6, 2008

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

Translated by Shaykh Abu Adam al Naruiji


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

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

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

[The question asked]

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

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

“Al-Rahmān ‘alā al-‘Arsh istawā”[2]


“‘a ‘amintum man fī Al-Samā'”[3]

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

“‘ilayhi yas’ad Al-Kalim Al-Tayib”[4]

and the hadīth,

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

with a complete and satisfactory explanation.

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

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

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

[The proof in terms of reasoning]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[The Salaf’s way of dealing with mutashābihāt]

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Examples of how the Salaf dealt with mutashābihāt]

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

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

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

[The Khalaf’s way of dealing with mutashābihāt]

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

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

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

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

[The Jahmīyah are very different from the Khalaf]

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

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

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

You (Oh Allāh) are clear of all imperfection!

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

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

[Scholars that signed this fatwa]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shaykh Muhammad ‘Alyān, from great scholars of Azhar.

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

Shaykh Muhammad Husayn Hamdān.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[10] Sometimes translated as “chair”.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[16] Sūrah 3, 5 – more details later.

[17] See footnote #…..

[18] See footnote #….

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

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

[21] See footnote #….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[25] See footnote #….

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

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

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

[29] Scholars after the 3rd century.

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

[31] See footnote #….

[32] See footnote #….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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