The ‘Shin’ and ‘Face’ of Allah(swt)

Posted on August 22, 2006. Filed under: 202 - Advanced Asma wa Sifaat |

Important Principle

al-Mudaf (construct state) is of two main types:

  1. al-Mudaf depicting possession
  2. al-Mudaf not depicting possession

The first type, includes examples such as: Kalam Allah, ‘Ilm Allah, Qudrat Allah (Allah’s Speech, Allah’s knowledge and Allah’s power)

The second type, includes examples such as: Ka’bat Allah, Naaqat Allah (Allah’s Ka’bah, or Allah’s she-camel)

This shows that not everything that is attributed to Allah in Idafa is necessarily His Attribute, for we all know that Ka’ba and the she-camel is NOT Allah’s Attributes.

So how do we know whether the Mudaf such as Kalam, Ka’ba, ‘Ilm, Naaqah, etc, is actually Allah’s Attribute or not?

We only know this by knowing the meaning of the Mudaf.

Hence, because we know the meaning of Kalam, and know also that it does not exist independently, the fact that it is an Attribute to Allah makes Kalam Allah’s Attribute.

On the other hand, because we know the meaning of Ka’bah, and therefore we know that it exists independently, we know that Ka’bah is NOT Allah’s Attribute.


Now bearing this principle in mind, one can only Attribute a Wajh to Allah, if he knows what Wajh means. If he does not know what Wajh means, then he has no authority to attribute it to Allah, for Wajh Allah could easily be the second type of mudaf, like Kab’at Allah.

No scholars can attribute a Wajh to Allah, if they do not know what Wajh means.

Wajh could mean face, as it could also mean a direction.

The scholars could only attribute a Wajh to Allah, if wajh means ‘face’.

They cannot attribute a ‘wajh’ to Allah if it means direction.

Therefore, if the scholars affirm wajh as Allah’s Attribute, they have no choice but to believe that Wajh means a face, and this is what they believed.

A good way of looking at this is to say,

Whosoever held a similitude for Allah from His creation has committed disbelief [kufr], whosoever disputes what Allah has attributed for Himself has committed disbelief [kufr], there is absolutely no similitude [tash’bih] in what Allah taala has described Himself or His messenger; so, whosoever affirms [the attributes] for Allah ta`ala [just] as they have been mentioned in the [qur’anic] verses, and in the authentic reports – that is befitting the Majesty of Allah ta’ala and negates all flaws from Allah ta’ala has truly struck the path of guidance.

But what the mainstream Ash’aris say is quite different. They insist on negating the literal meaning. They say: Yes, Allah has attributed something called ‘wajh’ to himself, but what this means we do not exactly know, although we are certain that it does not refer to wajh literally.


Ash’aris will argue this point by trying to say,

Let us now take what you say is an attribute of Allah – Shin.

The literal meaning of Shin in the language is:

“The front part of the leg below the knee and above the ankle.”

Now how can you say that by applying a “literal meaning” one does not contradict the “without modality and definition” principle that you claim to be upon?

This is incorrect.

Shin is in and of itself the literal meaning, otherwise, Shin itself will be meaningless.

If in Arabic someone says: inkasarat saaquhu, it literally means: His shin broke. i.e. Shin is the literal meaning itself.

The same statement could be made in relation to a Jinn, i.e. ‘his shin broke’, but is their shin like ours, composed of blood, flesh and bones, between the knee and foot? Allah knows best. However, the meaning of Shin is known.

When they say: ‘The front part of the leg below the knee and above the ankle’, is the Hadd – or the definition of Shin with respect to human beings, something which Ahlus Sunnah does not affirm.

Rather, we constantly state that our affirmation of Allah’s Attributes like Face and Hands is the affirmation of existence (wujud), and not affirmation of any definition (tahdid). Just as we literally believe that Allah exists, without giving his existence any definition. Hence, Allah’s Hands are no different to His existence.

It shuold be pointed out though, that the reason why the latter Ash’aris negated Wajh, ‘Ayn, etc and made ta’wil thereof, is due to Kalami principles that negating composition, divisiblity and multiplicity of eternal.

A Maturidi scholar (Zabidi al-Hanafi, d.~1200AH) mentioned,

Your saying, ‘we take it by its literal meaning, and it is incomprehensible’ is contradictory in itself. If you take by its literal meaning, then ‘as-saq’ mentioned in Suratal-Qalam (ayah 42), is a ‘shin’ which is a part made up of flesh, bones, muscle, and nerves. If you take by that the literal meaning, then you have committed blasphemy, and if you deny it, then how do you claim to take by the literal meaning?

The great Shafi’i traditionist al-Khattabi (d. 388AH) said about the texts pertaining to Allah’s Shin,

This Hadeeth is one where our scholars dreaded saying something, so they passed it on in accordance with the literal meaning of the wording (fa ajrawhu ‘ala dhahiri lafdhihi). They did not explore the depths of its meaning, in accordance with their Madhab of ceasing to give tafseer to anything the essence of which is not encompassed with knowledge (al-Asma wal-Sifat, al-Bayhaqi)

Again, to emphasize, the proper principle is to accept the literal meaning (dhahir) and to negate the modality (kayf).


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4 Responses to “The ‘Shin’ and ‘Face’ of Allah(swt)”

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masha Allah. this is correct inshaAllah.

Seeking the face of God doesn’t mean an actual face. The word ‘face’ has to be used to direct us to what it implies. It implies seeking where God is. May we all seek God’s face instead of seeking what people say about it.

I think the author feels very much perturbed at the mention of words face and shin with respect to Allah and that is why he has stretched his arguments to a ridiculous extent. The mention of these words in Quran only reaffirms what other religions speak about God’s appearance. When each and every word written in Quran is taken at face value then what prevents Muslims from accepting this fact that Allah(God), though beyond a normal human being’s comprehension, has a form of himself(or herself, if you happen to be feminist)? Instead of trying to interpret in the way that has been done by the author of the article, it is better to highlight this fact to one and all, especially the Muslims, to make them realize that ‘their’ God and ‘others’ God is no different and that we all are essentially only one human race with merely different ways of approaching the Almighty. This, I strongly feel, would reduce (and God willing -eliminate) tension between Muslims and followers of other religions. Even the Gita speaks of the Almighty without any attributes but then it does not negate the fact that the formless God can also possess a form (And who are we to either give a personal or impersonal form to God? The One who has given all of us a shape is surely capable of assuming a form of his own. The problem is not everyone can behold His form and the one who can{like Arjun; Please see chapter 11 of Gita}, is only with special blessings of the Lord . There (Chapter 12)the Lord specifically says that even those people who worship His impersonal form (like the Muslims) too ultimately reach Him, but with difficulty.

To quote Arvind Kumar Sharma:

“Even the Gita speaks of the Almighty without any attributes..”

Why then do the Hindus build statues with many armed deities, even one with a trunk?

The problem is not between Muslims & other religions. It’s between shallow people – whatever their creed religion or nationality.

As a Christian I have seen so called Christians, Hindus, Jews & Muslims perform idiotic acts in the name of what they, with their lack in intellect & understanding, believe to be ‘God’.

Like the martial art teacher pointed out to his pupil:

“It’s like a finger pointing you to the splendour of the moon. If you focus on the finger too much – you’ll miss the splendour of the moon.”

All the Holy Books are the finger pointing us to God. May we all stop staring at the finger and see the moon.

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