Tafwid: Trying to Define Allah’s Attributes

Posted on August 16, 2006. Filed under: 202 - Advanced Asma wa Sifaat |

Often times the mufawwidah will try to legitimize tafwid of the meaning of an Attribute by asking for the definition of “Yadd” or “Wajh” or “Saaq,” for example, trying to get a person to make an anthropomorphic definition.

A person who does this has shown that they are not really trying to understand, but rather reflects the questioner’s motive for asking a yes/no type question and not allowing one to respond with any kind of explanation.

Imam al-Saffarini said,

‘rather, we assent, submit, comply and believe in all of that and affirm it (i.e. Allah’s Eye), thereby affirming its existence (wujud) without affirming the nature (takyif) or a universal definition (tahdid)’

This quote shows that when we affirm a Hand for Allah, our affirmation only involves believing that Allah’s Hands exist. We do not affirm for Allah, any sort of takyif – howness, or any sort of tahdid – a universal definition.

We make tafweedh of the definition, but affirm the meaning, just as we make tafweedh of the definition of Life, Will, Hearing and Seeing for Allah, while literally affirming their meanings.

If a person asks for the ‘meaning’ of the word “Yadd” for example, then that is made tafwid of. If they ask for the linguistic meaning, then this is something known to anyone who speaks Arabic. If it did not have a meaning, then Allah’s statement about Adam, “whom I created with yaday (2 Hands)” would not be kalam grammatically, for kalam is only that which gives a meaning.

If they are trying to imply that ‘yad’ in Arabic only refers to jariha, i.e. a corporeal bodily limb, then that is only with reference to the ‘yad’ of a human being.

For the ‘yad’ of an angel or a jinn cannot be described as corporeal bodily limb. Rather, their ‘yad’, corresponds to their nature of existence, which we simply do not know.

If this is the case with the ‘yad’ of a jinn or an angel, then how about the ‘yad’ of the Creator of these Jinns and angels?

The conclusive principle that we consistently adhere to is this:

al-Kalamu fi al-sifat kal-kalami fi al-dhat.

Our approach to the divine Attributes, is consistent with our approach to the divine essence. Meaning, just as we affirm Allah’s essence (dhat) and existence, without knowing the kayf, we also affirm the existence of His Attributes, without knowing the kayf.

Thus we remain consistent through out our doctrine, being 100% faithful to the authentic legal texts, and completely confirming with the established rational truths.

The Ash’aris, on the other hand, who demand the meaning of ‘yad’ in Arabic, trying to force out ‘jariha’, or a ‘corporeal bodily limb’ from our mouths, we ask them exactly the same question about the Attributes they literally affirm for Allah.

They say that Allah has a Will.

We ask them: give us the meaning of a ‘Will’ in Arabic.

For ‘Will’, only refers to ‘inclination of one’s heart to either do or leave something’.

This is why the Mu’tazila accused the Ash’aris of anthropomorphism, because to them, the Ash’aris believed that Allah’s heart is inclined to do or leave something.

Hence, the Mu’tazila remained consistent with their rational thought.

The Ash’aris, on the other hand, in their attempt to fuse between the rationalist and the traditionalist thought, ended up affirming some Attributes, and denying others, and by time, their list of Allah’s Attributes became smaller, and smaller…

Ahlus Sunnah says Allah has two Hands.

The Ash’aris say: Hands are nothing but bodily limbs, if not, then please define to us ‘Hands’

We say, Hands are only bodily limbs with respect to human hands, for Jinns’ hands, or angels’ hands are of a different nature, and likewise, Allah’s Hands suite the nature of His existence.

We further say to them: You affirm that Allah has an eternal Will. The Will only refers to inclination of one’s heart to do or to leave something, and if not then define to us Will.

Saying that Allah has an eternal Will and that He brings about what He Wills etc, is not the definition of ‘Will’. It is similar to Ahlus Sunnah saying, Allah created Adam with His two Hands, etc. So if the Ash’aris ask to define Hands, we ask them to define Will.


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